Society 08/03/2021

Covid arms the feminist struggle

Strike and static rallies to demand real equality for women

MARTA RIU BALLESTEROS
3 min
Feminist walk to Santa Paloma yesterday.
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BarcelonaProtests have been called for International Women's Day in a year in which the pandemic has hit women hardest. Precisely because of covid, this year won't see any of the marches we have seen of recent; instead, static demonstrations have been called. It is paradoxical that precisely jobs most often done by women - those of care, cleaning, services or health - have proved essential to overcome the crisis and, however, are the least valued socially and the most precarious. Women's organisation insist there are plenty of reasons to demonstrate and go on strike, whilst trade unions have called for a day's strike in protest over the gender gap which, far from closing, has increased in the last year. Women's work is essential but precarious.

Unlike Madrid, where the Delegation of the Spanish government has banned mobilisations due to the high incidence of covid-19, in Catalonia demonstrations are allowed provided they respect safety and hygiene measures. In the case of Madrid, its High Court of Justice upheld the ban on protests for reasons of "public health" and thus dismissed the appeals presented by some of the convening entities, who considered it a limitation on the right of assembly and an attempt to criminalise the feminist movement, which, this year, comes more divided than ever by the so-called trans law.

In Catalonia, where protests are allowed, the big marches will become static rallies. This year, because of the pandemic, there will be no shared banners and it will be necessary to wear a mask and keep a two-meter distance. In Barcelona the rally will be at 18.30 hours and will take place throughout the Paseo de Gracia -from Gran Via to Diagonal-, divided for the occasion in eight sections with a maximum capacity of 450 people. Six of these stretches have been reserved only for women, while the remaining two are mixed spaces. The platform Vaga Feminista expects to gather about 3,500 people, but throughout Catalonia decentralised events have been organised to facilitate attendance without breaking travel restrictions and avoiding large crowds. In addition, the organisation calls for protesters to make noise from balconies and windows at home at 9 pm.

Demonstration

Unions CGT and the Intersindical Alternativa de Catalunya have been left alone in calling the strike day for all workers, along with other sectoral organisations such as the Sindicat de Periodistes de Catalunya and the Sindillar, of domestic workers and care workers. On the other hand, the big class central organizations (CCOO and UGT) have distanced themselves this time and have opted for protest actions. Among the reasons for the demand is the lack of plans and real actions to end the wage gap and pensions, facilities for reconciliation, equality for domestic workers or concrete measures against gender violence, which has grown during the pandemic.

The memory of the 2018 strike

Covid has put a brake on a feminist movement which, still enjoying the momentum of the great mobilisations and strikes of 2018, have been expanding with ever more alliances and popular backing. In 2018, six million women workers across the state joined the calls made by all the unions to strike - women only - to show what a world without female labour both paid and unpaid - would be like.

From then on, the calls appealed to all workers, but the success has not been repeated and fewer people have responded to calls. Last year, International Women's Day was on a Sunday and, despite the first warnings signs of the pandemic - a week later the state of alarm and total lockdown was declared in Spain - the demonstrations were once again quite numerous.

For the 24-hour strike day, the Generalitat has set minimum services to ensure the proper functioning of healthcare. Guaranteed public transport service is 85%, higher than during other strikes in an attempt to avoid crowding.

Male violence, #MeToo, the sentence of the Manada, the sexual consent law, the allegations of abuse by teachers (e.g. the cases uncovered by ARA in the theatrical world) are among the reasons to mobilise, but also the fight for equality because, as statistics show, the labour structure has especially harmed women - and even more so immigrant and racialized women - during the pandemic.

The data leave little room for joy and a lot of space to conquer: there are still very few women at the top of power structures, they are the ones who take care of parents, children and dependents and they are the ones who give up a professional career, partly because their salary is lower than that of their male partners and, therefore, is considered secondary. Moreover, job insecurity pushes them into poverty, condemns them to accept more part-time work and to receive lower pensions towards the end of their lives.

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