Hundred thousand of protesters blowing whistles, burned bras,blocked traffic and singing feminist slogans filled the streets of Switzerland towns and cities on Friday June 14 2019, the women across the country went on strike for equal pay and to stop sexual harassment and violence against them. The protest comes nearly in 28 years after women held the country’s first nationwide strike for equal pay. “June 14, 2019, enters the recent history of Switzerland as the biggest political event.
Considering the whole day several hundred thousand of women took part in actions strikes and walkouts” told in a statement by USS an umbrella organisation of 16 Swiss unions.Women expressed their frustration with the gender discrimination and wage gaps in the wealthy Alpine nation. Also demanding more pay for domestic workers, teachers and caregivers ie, the jobs typically held by women.
Pram marches, whistle concerts and giant picnics were planned around the country with the day’s events reached at the peak in giant demonstrations including the capital Bern (40000 people), Zurich (70000), Basel (40000) and Geneva (20000) In Lausanne (60000) the cathedral was lit up in the colour purple the organisers said. The Swiss Federal Statistics office says “women on average earned 12% less than men for similar work the so called “gender pay gap” as of 2016 the latest figures available. In Geneva the protestors replaced street signs named after men’s name with women’s. 548 streets in Geneva Canton are named after men and only 41 have female names according to the ATS news agency.
The organisers of Friday’s action say things have hardly improved since the major 1991 strike, insisting women need to demand “more time, more money, more respect”. Women in Switzerland on an average still earn 20 percent less than men.Vanessa Truba Geneva pastor and vice president of a city association of ministers and deacons said “protesters on Friday were also demanding longer paternity leave now just one day in Switzerland to get men to help out more with child care.”
The International Labour Organization reported recently that “Switzerland is one of the worst nations in Europe and Central Asia when it comes to the post high school education gap between the sexes especially in the STEM science fields.” The Swiss statistics office also says of “the 249 homicides recorded in the country between 2009 and 2018, 75% of the victims were women and girls.” The organisers said to broadcaster RTS “Wage equality has not been achieved. That is a good reason to go on strike” Ruth Dreyfuss who in 1998 became Switzerland’s first female president. Switzerland was one of the last countries in Europe to give women the right to vote in local elections which is in 1990.
Over the past three decades women’s rights improved in Switzerland and have made some gains. Abortion was legalised in 2002 and In 2005 they introduced the 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. For those women unable to take a full day the organisers recommended them to at least pack their things and leave by 3:24 pm.”After that women work for free” said Anne Fritz the main organiser of the strike and a representative of USS. People across the country wore face paints and stickers.