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Argentine Women Call National Strike for Gender Equality

Women’s rights organisation Ni Una Menos, alongside approximately 50 other groups and unions are leading a ‘National Women’s Strike’ today.

Women around the country are being encouraged to leave their offices, universities, and homes and stop working between 1-2pm to go out onto the streets and make themselves visible. This unprecedented strike will be followed by a protest starting at 5pm, where women will be congregating at the Obelisk wearing all black and then marching from there to Plaza de Mayo.

This demonstration has been organised for a number of reasons, and represents a sense of increasing anger and urgency within the women’s movement. The horrific femicide last week of 16-year-old Lucía Pérez after being drugged, raped and tortured in Mar del Plata is the main source of outrage and key trigger for today’s protest. The same day a girl was murdered by her mother for being a lesbian, and a day later two teenage girls were stabbed in an unprovoked attack by a man in La Boca. These cases all contribute towards the shocking statistics produced by the organisation Mujeres de la Matria Latinoamericana (MuMaLá): there have been 226 femicides in Argentina so far this year, and 19 in the first 17 days of October alone.

Violent police action during the 31st National Women’s Encounter in Rosario last week further heightened the discontent of Ni Una Menos, and this combined with these alarming wave of femicide led to the organisation of this protest during a meeting of The Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy (CTEP).

Ni Una Menos have been referring to today as ‘Black Wednesday’ and momentum has been building online with the use of hashtags #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) and #NosotrasParamos (We Women Stop). The protest has also gained international recognition: this morning a map was released highlighting similar protests planned in Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, France and Spain. Despite the heavy rain, there is still expected to be a large turnout of women today, and men are also encouraged to protest too, albeit without taking a dominant role. Florencia Abbate, a representative for Ni Una Menos, told La Nación that “The protest is not just for women, it’s a way of showing that things don’t function without us. But if men want to join the march that’s fine. Many are worried too, and it isn’t hypocrisy.”

‘We Are Indispensable’

Despite heavy emphasis on protesting domestic violence and femicide, today’s events do not solely focus on these issues. The one-hour strike between 1-2pm serves to represent the vast importance and contribution of women to the Argentine economy, and to highlight economic inequality and disadvantage between genders.

Mercedes D’Alessandro, co-founder of Economía Feminista, an organisation with strong ties to Ni Una Menos, explained these economic factors to the Indy. “In Argentina, the wage gap between men and women is approximately 27%, and this figure increases to 40% when related to informal jobs, the type of job that approximately one third of Argentine women have.”

Economía Feminista is an organisation that serves to raise awareness about economic disparity for Argentine women, and many of their statistics have been used in Ni Una Menos campaigns. D’Alessandro also outlined that women do 76% of all unpaid domestic housework. “This impacts women’s work opportunities, as a woman who works full time is still expected to fulfil all the duties of cooking, cleaning and looking after children.”

Motherhood also influences job prospects, as women often have to stop working to look after their children or work part-time, limiting their earning potential and opportunity to progress in their work environment. Economía Feminista believe that the way to combat this is through the introduction of policies by both Argentine companies and the state to improve the availability of affordable childcare and increased maternity and paternity leave, as the latter constitutes merely two days. They refer to this lack of support for women to balance their work and domestic duties as a chief contributor to the ‘glass ceiling’ in large firms, as “becoming a mother may exclude a woman from being made a team leader or chosen to travel to conferences, for example.”

D’Alessandro shares her concern that people may think that today’s march is solely about femicide. “It is, of course, about that, but it is also to show that women are very important in the economic and social life of the country. We are indispensable.”

Referring to the division of household chores, Ni Una Menos’ uncompromising slogan ‘If our lives don’t matter, produce without us’ comes to mind as D’Alessandro adds: “if nobody cleaned anything, or washed clothes or cooked dinner – nobody could go to work. Whether in your home it’s you, your mother, or you hire someone who does the housework, in the majority of cases it’s a woman. But this work is invisible.”

Johanna Godoy, from the Frente de Mujeres Evita in José C. Paz, a suburb in Greater Buenos Aires, provided a further perspective from outside the city. “Today there will be a large event in the centre of Buenos Aires, so we decided to do our own event to highlight problems in our district in the main square.” Among the activities at the protest will be an open radio and exhibition of photographs, and they will also be holding discussions about the different types of domestic violence, to show that “violence isn’t just a punch”.

The Frente De Mujeres have hosted similar protests in the main square of José C. Paz that have been popular in the past, and they are therefore expecting a large turn out today. Godoy credits this popularity to the work Ni Una Menos has done to raise awareness and unite women to oppose gender violence and learn more about the issues that affect them. She explained that the event was organised because they “wanted to give women who are interested in the movement but can’t go to the capital the opportunity to protest”.

She also believes today’s marches will have a large impact, as she described the women’s movement in Argentina of today as “something historic”. “Tenemos que hacer frente – ¡no queremos morir más!’ (“We have to confront this – we don’t want to die any more!”)

Godoy did, however, criticise media reporting of femicides, as it often fails to provide adequate coverage for those that occur away from the city centre. “Femicides in my district aren’t represented as much in the media, we don’t have a concrete statistic of the number of femicides – we don’t have that data.” Ultimately, her message was clear. These issues don’t only exist within the city centre, and the heavily reported march in front of the Obelisk won’t be the only protest taking place today.

 

Published in Argentina Independent

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