Wear red, down tools and buy local for International Women's Day

Alexandra Topping
People take part in the Women’s March in London in January to advocate equal rights. Photograph: David Mbiyu/Corbis via Getty Images

Wear red, down tools and buy local: that is the action women in the UK are being urged to take on International Women’s Day as part of a global strike to highlight gender rights and abuses.

The “one day without a woman” mobilisation is urging women to take the day off “from paid and unpaid labour”, only buy local and wear red in solidarity with the global women’s movement.

In London, where it will be budget day, there will be a protest outside the family court in Holborn at 9.45am, followed by a “speak out” outside parliament, said Nina Lopez, a coordinator for the Global Women’s Strike.

The movement in England is adopting a broom as its symbol – because together the bristles are strong - and is inviting women to make a loud noise at 6pm in coordination with other women around the world.

“We have been working towards a global women’s strike since 2000, so it is so exciting that this is happening,” Lopez said. “International Women’s Day feels very different this year. Women are spearheading a global movement for change – this is feminism of the 99%.

“It’s not just about breaking through the glass ceiling or getting in the boardroom, it’s about recognising the value of caring and unpaid work. Women throughout the world are doing double the work [of men] because the majority do the work of the home, yet they are still being paid less. That has to end.”

Ahead of IWD, a march in London on Sunday, attended by the mayor, Sadiq Khan, is expected to involve thousands.

Under the 2017 IWD banner of #BeBoldForChange the London #March4Women event is kicking off a wave of events, which have gained momentum since the global Women’s March in January.

Khan – who is taking the unusual step of shutting Tower Bridge for the march – said it was “unacceptable that in 2017 in London, the most progressive city in the world, your gender can still determine how much you get paid”.

He urged men and boys to join the march, which has been organised by Care International.

“Equal rights is not just a fight for women – all of us need to stand in solidarity with our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends to say that discrimination, in all shapes and forms, will not be tolerated,” he said. “Ahead of International Women’s Day, I am honoured to stand shoulder to shoulder with Londoners from all backgrounds to spread the message that London is open and a place where we celebrate everyone, from every walk of life, regardless of their gender.”

Up to 2 million people around the world joined the Women’s March for equality in January at the start of Donald Trump’s presidency. Organisers of the Women’s March in London, which involved 100,000, have endorsed the international women’s strike. They will join Sunday’s march, which will begin with a mass karaoke rendition of Aretha Franklin’s Respect.

Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of the suffragette leader Emmeline, will join Bianca Jagger and artists including Emeli Sandé, Billy Bragg and the Olympic Suffragettes.

“Our solidarity and the fight for the equal rights of women should not end at the shores of our own country,” Pankhurst said. “We’re urging women to join us ahead of International Women’s Day, in solidarity with the many refugees who have trekked hundreds of miles to find safety, many of them mothers, forced to carry their children from one danger zone to the next.”

Laurie Lee, the head of Care International said the march would be “an unforgettable afternoon hearing from a star lineup of outspoken feminists, refugee women, celebrities and global activists”.

The roots of International Women’s Day go back to a mass mobilisation in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding the right to vote, better pay and shorter working hours. The first official National Women’s Day march, led by the Socialist Party of America, took place a year later on 28 February. IWD moved to 8 March in 1913, and was recognised by the United Nations in 1975.

With the World Economic Forum estimating that the global gender gap won’t close until 2186, advocates argue that IWD is needed more than ever.

The UK parliament marked IWD with a debate on Thursday which gave MPs an opportunity to reflect on “the progress that has been made and how much more there is still to do”, said the conservative MP Maria Miller, the chair of the women and equalities select committee.

She cited the introduction of compulsory sex and relationship education in secondary schools, announced this week, as an example of a growing cross-party movement supporting women’s rights.

“There is now a recognition that women’s issues can be supported, advocated for and taken on regardless of political party. I think MPs understand what they can achieve on these issues if they work together.”

She added: “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we have a female prime minister.”

There is also an International Men’s Day – focusing on men and boy’s health, improving gender relations and showcasing positive male role models – which takes place on 19 November every year and is marked in 60 countries.

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