On Friday, thousands of women across Switzerland went on strike for equality. In a country where strikes are rare, the women said they were protesting for money, time, and respect.
The June 14 strike came exactly 28 years after Switzerland’s first strike for women’s rights. That strike, in 1991, brought out half a million women. NPR reports that during the first strike, women hung cleaning tools such as dust pans and vacuum cleaners out of windows to show that they were not working.
Switzerland is a rich European country that is home to many banks. Businesses in Switzerland are generally doing well. Compared with many other countries, people in Switzerland are fairly happy and well taken care of.
Still, women’s rights have been slow to come to Switzerland. In many other European countries, women won the right to vote around 1918. In Switzerland, women were not allowed to vote or run for national positions like Parliament until 1971. It wasn’t until 1985 that wives could work or open a bank account without the permission of their husbands.
Equal pay is one of the areas where Switzerland is still behind. Women are paid about 20% less than men.
This year’s strike was planned after Switzerland passed an equal pay law that didn’t really do much. The new law only applies to companies with over 100 workers and doesn’t have any penalties for companies that don’t pay women equally.
Though equal pay is a big focus, the strike was about more than money. The women want more female leaders in businesses and government. They are also concerned about the way women are treated. They believe women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies and health. They also want the government to work harder to stop violence against women.
The strike was not just for women with paying jobs, but also for women who work at home, cleaning or taking care of children. Young women still in school were also encouraged to join the strike.
Women who were unable to strike were encouraged to leave work at 3:24. The idea was that if women are paid 20% less, then they should leave work 20% early.
The strike began just moments after midnight on June 14. Thousands of women joined in the strike. There were protests in all major cities as well as in almost every small town and village across Switzerland. Protesters marched, held signs, chanted, and sang.
In some cities, protesters renamed streets for famous women. Parliament took a 15 minute break in honor of the strike. At least one newspaper left blank spots in the paper to represent articles that would have been written by women.
The strike organizers are very pleased with the way Friday’s strike worked out. They believe it will remind people of how important it is to work for equal rights for women. They are even thinking about organizing another strike for International Women’s Day, on March 8 of next year.
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