#IWD2023: women fight across the globe

This International Women’s Day, women everywhere are at the forefront of global struggles for women’s liberation and against capitalism and repressive governments. rs21 members collect together 13 inspiring examples large and small from across the world from the last few months. The article ends with recommendations for #IWD2023 events you could attend in Edinburgh, Manchester, London and online.

Norfolk NEU UCU PCS RMT ASLEF strike protest march in Norwich. Signs call for more funding for teachers, held by women, smiling, at a march.
Norfolk NEU UCU PCS RMT ASLEF strike protest march in Norwich. 1 Feb 2023. Photo credit: Roger Blackwell, Flickr, 2023.

UK strikes see hundreds of thousands of women strike for better pay and conditions

In December 2022, amid a wave of strikes across sectors, the Royal College of Nurses took their first strike action in the union’s 106-year history. Though there have been protests and campaigns led by nurses in the recent past, December saw their first strike action in Britain, alongside many colleagues across the NHS. Despite more men becoming nurses in recent years, 86% of nurses are still women. Other majority women unions have been – or continue to be – on strike in 2023, such as the National Education Union (whose membership is 76% women) and the Public and Commercial Services Union (60% women).

Cis and trans women unite to commemorate Brianna Ghey and resist transphobia

In February 2023, dozens of protests and vigils across Britain’s towns and cities called for an end to transphobia after the murder of Brianna Ghey, a young trans woman. Despite the hostile media and political climate facing trans people in Britain today, tens of thousands of people commemorated Brianna Ghey’s life and protested for trans people’s freedom to live without fear, and to access the healthcare and support that they need.

Canadian women’s football team threaten strike over gender pay and funding gap

Last month, the Canada women’s national football team players said they will strike in April if their dispute with the Canada Soccer Association is not resolved. As well as a dispute over unpaid wages from 2022, they said they are seeking equal pay with the men’s team going forward, but they also want to see equal investment in resources for the program, including increased staffing. ‘This could be our most important fight that we ever have as national team players and it’s one that we are determined to win,’ said longtime captain Christine Sinclair, the world’s all-time leading international goal-scorer.

Polish women continue to resist oppressive anti-abortion laws

In November 2022, protests against Poland’s anti-abortion laws continued – even as the state continues to repress activists through criminal sanctions following the huge resistance to these laws in 2020-2021. November 2022’s protests were triggered by right-wing ruling party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, who recently blamed the country’s low birth rate on women drinking too much alcohol. Grassroots groups such as Aborcyjny Dream Team continue to try to help women access abortions, despite the state’s moves to start arresting pro-choice activists (see, for example, Justyna Wydrzyńska, reported on by Vice in 2022).

Image is an aerial view of a pro-choice rally in Poland, showing thousands of people filling a crossroads, in 2020.
Pro-choice protesters in Poland in 2020 following laws banning abortion.

Moroccan women rally for abortion rights after death of 14-year-old girl

Rallies took place in Morocco in October 2022, days after the death of a 14-year-old girl, Meriem, during a clandestine abortion. Abortion is largely illegal in Morocco, permitted only when the pregnant person’s life is at risk. Abortions under other circumstances attract penalties of up to two years for those who receive them, and 10 to 30 years for the health workers involved. On 6 October, dozens of activists gathered outside the country’s parliamentary building with posters that said in Arabic, local Darija, French, and English: ‘For you, they’re laws; for us, they are death penalties’, and: ‘You can’t ban abortion; you can only ban safe abortion.’

Women in Spain stand up against femicide

In Spain, official statistics suggest about 100 women are murdered annually, around half of them by current or former intimate partners. According to the New York Times, among the 49 women in that category in 2022, 21 had filed a complaint with the authorities about abuse or harassment by those partners before their death. After each of the recent killings, women have marched in protests in Spanish towns and cities, brandishing slogans like ‘Machismo kills’ and ‘I scream today in case I am not here tomorrow.’

Women protest sexual and gendered violence in South Korea

Following on from a vibrant #MeToo movement in South Korea in 2017-18, hundreds of Korean women got together in Seoul and other towns and cities in December 2022 despite sub-zero temperatures to protest against sexual violence and call for the authorities to take violent crimes against women more seriously. The rally on Sunday was organised by the group Haeil, which means ‘tsunami’ in Korean. According to Ju Hee, founder of Haeil: ‘Korea is a country with a long history of male supremacy that favours boys and aborts a large number of girls’. 

Indigenous women demonstrate against racialised sexual violence in Argentina

In November 2022, Argentina saw groups of indigenous women come together to challenge ‘chineo’, a term used in northern Argentina to refer to the racist colonial practice of raping indigenous women and girls by non-indigenous, often white, men. According to Nacla, the protest saw women travel over 1000 kilometres to protest in the capital following a pattern of violent sexual crimes against indigenous women and girls.

Sex workers fight for fair pay in New Zealand

In early February, a group of strippers working at Calendar Girls strip club in Wellington raised issues with club management about their new contracts, which increased the club’s share of their earnings leaving the strippers with 50 percent, 10 percent less than they had received previously. 19 strippers had their contracts terminated by Calendar Girls management through a Facebook post telling them to clear out their lockers. This group has since formed a campaign under the banner ‘Fired Up Stilettos‘ advocating for better workplace conditions for strippers.

Woman Life Freedom protests in Iran

In September 2022, Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a twenty-two-year-old Kurdish woman, arrived in Tehran with her family on vacation. Agents of the country’s morality police arrested her on charges of wearing her hijab improperly, and days later, she died from injuries inflicted by the police. This sparked a wave of protests in which men and women united to protest repressive laws around the hijab and a range of authoritarian policies – which continue today. The protests have made international news for their use of the slogan ‘Woman Life Freedom’, and they have inspired solidarity across the Iranian diaspora and amongst socialists and feminists globally. rs21 covered the movement during its first upsurge here.

Woman, life, freedom protest
Protest in Sheffield for democracy – Photo by Tim Dennell, Creative Commons

China sees women lead resistance to authoritarian Covid policies

In November 2022, a fire in a predominantly Uyghur neighbourhood of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang in China, killed at least 10 people, including children. Charlie Hore wrote for rs21 in response to the fire: ‘Covid lockdowns have been even more onerous in Xinjiang than elsewhere in China, with some residents effectively confined to their houses since August, and reports of food shortages in smaller towns in September.’ The fire and the deaths triggered a wave of protests in at least 39 cities, with women leading the way, including through viral videos like this one. 

Women’s protest in Cameroon pushes military to release detained youths

In February 2023, Cameroon’s military released about 30 youths it detained as suspected rebels after a protest by several hundred women, including mothers of the detainees. The women from the Southwestern town of Ekona also accused the military of committing abuses in the region, which it denies. Speaking to VOA News from Buea, 33-year-old Akah Judith said the women will protest on the streets again if abuses continue. ‘Although they have released our children, who were arrested unjustly and unjustifiable, we will continue fighting for our rights to be respected,’ she said. ‘We will be here again should the military continue intimidating us, harassing us, and beating us. We have suffered a lot from these crises and want peace.’ Some context on recent conflicts in Cameroon and their gendered effects was published by the Guardian in 2022, including the alleged use of rape as a weapon.

Indigenous woman fronts the fight against the right-wing regime in Peru

On 4 February 2023, Aida Aroni Chilcce, a Quechua-speaking woman born in the Huancapi district of Ayacucho but displaced to Lima due to the internal armed conflict (1980-2000), together with other demonstrators, went to the streets to protest Dina Boluarte’s authoritarian government. Aida Aroni Chilcce, an indigenous woman, has become a symbol of protests in Peru against state repression after her arrest, which was caught on video.

Events you can attend on IWD 2023 – 8 March 2023

  • LONDON – Join Feminist Fightback, Women’s Strike Assembly and others on the streets this International Women’s Day for International Women’s Strike, 6.30pm,Trafalgar Square. More here.
  • MANCHESTER – A coalition of women from a wide range of intersectional feminist, socialist and anti-racist groups in Manchester have called a demonstration outside the GM Combined Authority office at 56 Oxford Street, Manchester from 5.30pm. 
  • EDINBURGH – March from Bristo Square to the Mound from 4.30pm, organised by International Women’s Strike Edinburgh and Woman Life Freedom Edinburgh – with performances. See more here.
  • ONLINE – Search for other events in your area, or if you can’t make something in-person, you could join Women for Socialist Change, an International Women’s Day 2023 online rally run by ARISE from 1pm onwards with guests including Apsana Begum MP (Labour), Holly Turner (NHS Workers Say No), Francesca Emanuele (Peruvian democracy campaigner), Michelle Gildernew MP (Sinn Fein) and Daniele Obono (French MP for La France Insoumise). See more here.

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