Over 200,000 Women in Asia and the Pacific Join Women’s Global Strike.
Strike held on International Women’s Day to reclaim the day.
Women express anger at constant attack on their human rights.
8 March, 2020
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Today on International Women’s day, over 200,000 women in all their diversities from 20 countries in Asia and the Pacific joined the global call for a Women’s Global Strike saying ‘If Women Stop, The World Stops’. The women in both regions gathered in large numbers to highlight the systemic injustices and violence they continue to face. This mass mobilisation comes at a time when women and peoples movements are organising in large numbers across Asia from Hong Kong to Shaheen Bagh in New Delhi.
Women's Global Strike in Chiang Mai, Thailand (source: APWLD)
“We gathered here on March 8, 2020, to highlight multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination that women face and to show the women’s collective power. We wanted to commemorate the International Women’s Day with the historic struggles of women in their community, as well as show the world that if women stop, the world stop,” said Matcha Phorn-In, Sangsan Anakot Yawachon Development Project, Thailand.
The extractive-based development and greed of multinational corporations have plundered women’s land and resources, destroyed the environment, and women feel the effects of climate change much more deeply. Women continue to be used as cheap labour for competitive advantage and exposed to precarious works. The cut of social safety nets and essential public services is made possible by women and girls who perform more than three-quarters of the total amount of unpaid care work. This work is still unrecognised and undervalued even though the economy would not function without it.
Women's Global Strike in Manila, the Philippines (source: APWLD/AMIHAN)
“Filipino women led by GABRIELA joined the Women’s Global Strike to demand land, living wage, decent and regular jobs, and respect for our human rights especially in the midst of intensifying state fascism and repression. As we commemorate the International Women’s Day, we strike against imperialist globalisation, militarism, authoritarianism and patriarchy that threaten the lives of working women the world over,” said Joms Salvador, Secretary General of GABRIELA, Philippines and member of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development. Over 25,000 women gathered in Manila and other cities in the Philippines for the strike.
Women's Global Strike in Kathmandu, Nepal (source: NAWHRD)
International Women’s Day is not a marketing campaign to make women feel beautiful but historically, it has been a day where women have put their lives at risk to defend their human rights and fundamental freedoms. “We, Women Human Right Defenders went on a strike today to demand our work be valued, our right to live without any forms of violence, materialisation of our constitutional right to food sovereignty and our access to leadership in a non-subordinate position. We want our rights to identity, bodily integrity and work protected, ensured and promoted,” added Renu Adhikari, National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRD), Nepal which mobilised women in 25 districts of Nepal.
Nalini Singh, Executive Director, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM) shared, “We hear every day that women and girls are being abused, raped and murdered. Women are still demanding safe workplaces, decent pay, equal opportunities and an end to discrimination. They are at the forefront of these issues and the most affected during times of conflict, natural disasters and now with the climate crisis unfolding very close to home. This was why we joined the Women’s Global Strike.”
“Today, we forged alliances to advocate and reclaim women’s collective power to demand our human rights. We withdrew from housework, domestic responsibility, and asked our male partners and allies to show solidarity by taking over responsibilities for home, family and community. We brought together women and queer allies in our networks and communities to march, to speak out and to come together,” added Fatima Burnad, Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum, India.
Women human rights defenders across Asia and the Pacific continue to challenge oppressive power structures while facing intimidation, sexual harassment, violence and repression from governments, anti-rights groups, state actors, military, political and economic elites, international financial institutions, and multinational corporations. “We are witnessing a systematic attack on civic democratic spaces that restricts our fundamental human rights. The more they oppress us, the more we grow and the more we resist. This mobilisation is just the beginning. Feminist groups will continue to lead and organise cross-movements collective actions to demand for a feminist future based on Development Justice. A future where wealth, power and resources are redistributed, a future that upholds human rights, a future that centers peoples and planet. We will not back down. Voices of dissent led by women will never be silenced,” said Wardarina, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).
The coordinated strikes are a reminder that 25 years after governments gathered together to adopt the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action for women’s rights, these promises have not been kept. Multilateral fora like the UN and governments are restricting women’s voices and demands for alternative models of development that put human rights at the center. However, region wide women will continue to raise their voices against authoritarian, macho-fascist politics, militarism, neoliberal capitalism, corporate capture and fundamentalisms, and reclaim civic spaces to build peoples’ power and dismantle these structural oppressions.
If not for the Covid-19, at least half a million women from Asia and the Pacific would have been on the streets, mobilising and marching. Since we believe public health is a feminist issue, we advised everyone to take the necessary precautions and heed the advise from health authorities in their respective countries. There are many ways for women to contribute and show solidarity for the strike and keep up the resistance.
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) is a leading network of feminist organisations and grassroots activists in Asia Pacific. Our 248 members represent groups of diverse women from 27 countries in Asia Pacific. Over the past 33 years, APWLD has actively worked towards advancing women’s human rights and Development Justice. We are an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation and hold consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.