International Women’s Day 2018: protests, strikes and celebrations

Photo credit: Claudia Boes
Photo credit: Claudia Boes

By Rimante Bivainyte

During the International Women’s Day, women marched down Queen Street in protest over changes regarding state pensions. The march was organised by Cardiff Sister of Solidarity (SOS). Many women were dressed in purple and green to represent the colours of historical suffragettes who fought for women’s rights to vote in the late 18th century.

The protest about changes to the state pensions is an ongoing process which is affecting women born in the 1950s. The changes which meant that women are started getting their pensions later have made a great impact on 200,000 women in Wales. This march was organized by the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) group which was joined by hundreds of women from different organizations and groups.

Claudia Boes who is a part of Cardiff Sisters of Solidarity said that this march was “a public street celebration of International Women’s Day. In the tradition of International Women’s Day the rally joined an international call for a Women’s Global Strike and the fight for the right to control our own bodies, for appropriate mental health services, for an end to the detainment of women, children and men seeking sanctuary and the more general campaign for gender, class, racial and LGBTQ+ equality.” In addition, to the question what women were seeking with this march, Boes responded: “If striking is the weapon of those who work, than the Global Women’s Strike is a challenge to the assumption that women’s work should be underpaid, undervalued or performed for free and with a smile.” Later, Claudia openly talked about the activeness of women in Cardiff in protesting for equal rights and opportunities. She noted that Cardiff has a long and diverse tradition of feminist and women’s rights campaigning for safe and legal abortions, protection from sexual assault and violence, gender, class, race and LGBTQ+ equality. Claudia Boes and other participating women have set up a Pop-up Women’s Arts Centre where they showcase the work of women and non-binary artists and presenting a varied programme of music, banner-making, a book launch, women’s art workshops, dance, radical self-care workshops and many other activities. This women’s movement by participating in the Global Women’s Strike and setting up this Arts Centre, Claudia says: ‘has had the opportunities to make connections, build alliances and take action against the many intersecting issues affecting women in Wales and worldwide.’ Moreover, ‘International Women’s Day 2018 also coincided with a highly successful strike rally, in solidarity with lecturers and university staff striking to defend pensions, the future of higher education and their own livelihoods. This has been one of the most successful and biggest strike rally in Cardiff, indicating that there is a general mood and energy for change,’ Claudia noted.

One of the Cardiff based organizations Periods in Poverty have also joined the march to celebrate women’s right. Carrie Evans who is a member of this organization spoke about this event by saying that the Period in Poverty organization ‘wanted to help celebrate the achievements of women and also to raise awareness of the issues so many women still face, such as period poverty.’ Additionally, asked about the organization itself, Carrie said that ‘it is a student-led initiative raising awareness and tackling period poverty in Wales which believes that all females should have access to sanitary products as a basic human need, regardless of circumstances.’ Carrie noted that it was a great privilege to be part of the Women’s March and such a unique community of women in Cardiff.

Campaigners of the protest over changes to the state pension stated that the changes are unfair in regards of women having to work up to six years longer, remortgage their homes or even lose their homes. The WASPI group stated that they are not against men’s pension rights, but say that they were not given enough or, in some other cases, haven’t got any kind of notice to plan the future. Co-ordinator for the Cardiff and Vale WASPI group, Kay Clarke said: ‘We’re fighting for our pensions. The Government won’t listen to us so we’re shouting to make them listen to us. We are very angry, cross, old ladies.” Also, she mentioned that the support that they received during the march was “fantastic”. Women’s strikes were held in four cities: London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Edinburgh where women gathered together to celebrate women, equality and raise the awareness of still existed issues such as pay gap or pensions.

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