A global day of action! International Working Women’s Day

By Kathy Durkin
March 31, 2020

Over the years, women have marched for jobs, higher wages, better working conditions and benefits, unions and equal rights in all political, social and economic spheres. They have protested racism and xenophobia. Agricultural workers have occupied land. Migrant workers have protested abuse and racism; they and their allies have demanded open borders and an end to family separations. LGBTQ2+ communities have protested bigotry. Sex workers have called for their rights. Seniors, youth and people with disabilities have participated.


Globally coordinated IWWD demonstrations have opposed imperialist wars and occupations. National liberation movements and other revolutionaries, socialists and communists have commemorated this day with anticolonial and anticapitalist demonstrations. On many continents, women workers and workers of all genders, nationalities and ages have militantly opposed the super-exploitation of globalized capitalism.

This year women in many countries decried sexist violence, calling out murderous femicides, as they condemned the patriarchal ideology that underlies the attacks. Women’s inequality, along with misogyny, racism, hostility to immigrants, homophobia and transphobia, are all promulgated by the capitalist class, which seeks to keep the world’s multinational working class divided within countries and across borders.

Building class and global solidarity were goals of the day’s socialist founders — and today, with the capitalist class brutally exploiting workers and oppressed people around the world — this solidarity is needed more than ever.

Here are highlights of some of this year’s March 8 demonstrations.

In defense of Venezuela

Venezuela [Credit: Orinoco Tribune]

Women and people of all genders filled the streets of Caracas, Venezuela, in a huge march organized by the Minister for Women and Gender Equality. Members of women’s organizations, the National Bolivarian Militia, state workers, people from rural areas and many others gathered at the Plaza Morelos and recognized the commitment of the Bolivarian government to ensure women’s rights.

They expressed loyalty to President Nicolas Maduro against U.S.-led plots to oust him and pledged to maintain their country’s independence and sovereignty. Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said they were defending “the future of Venezuelans and the sovereignty of the world’s peoples.”
From Mexico to Uruguay: Millions march

In other Latin American countries, millions of women and their allies marched in opposition to gender-based violence and oppression and waved green scarves and banners, symbolizing the movement for legal abortions.

Mexico [Credit: Alan Roth]

In what has been called the “largest International Working Women’s Day protest in Mexico’s history,” hundreds of thousands of people assembled across the country, with the largest march in Mexico City and 30,000 in Guadalajara. Demonstrators called for an end to precarious work, layoffs, government austerity policies, inequality and gender-based abuse. They also called for legal abortion — available in Mexico City and Oaxaca — to be accessible throughout the country.

Calls for “Justicia!” (Justice) for the victims of femicides rang out loudly in Mexico City on March 8 and 9. On March 8, the names of 3,000 slain women and girls were painted on the city’s Zocalo, the main square. Rates of femicides have increased; in 2019, 10 women and girls were murdered each day. On March 9, tens of thousands of women stayed home from work to demand the government take action to stop misogynist violence, particularly the brutal, sadistic murders that officials have mostly ignored.


With the motto, “Women in the Struggle: Sowing Resistance,” 3,500 rural women from around Brazil occupied Brasilia, the capital, March 5-9 during the first NationaLLandless Women’s Meeting. The occupation culminated in an IWWD march calling for gender equality. In Sao Paulo, women held banners denouncing right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.

At least a million people demanded women’s rights and protested police repression across Chile. In the capital, Santiago, marchers defied tear gas and defended themselves with rocks as police aimed water cannons at them. Leaders of trans and lesbian rights organizations, anti-police repression groups, migrants experiencing bigotry and sex workers headed up the march. Many marchers wore green scarves in solidarity with their sisters in Argentina who are fighting for legal abortion.


Large demonstrations took place in many other Chilean cities. The people in the streets were united in condemning police violence, including sexual assault, against activists in the people’s movement. These attacks began last October when protests were launched against President Sebastian Pinera’s reactionary administration. Women have been in the leadership of the antigovernment mobilization, calling for equality and an end to state repression and sexist violence. They are demanding a new constitution guaranteeing women’s equality.

Marches, rallies and work stoppages continued on Monday, March 9, in response to the call for a women’s strike. Participants included labor union members and women of all ages.

An anthem decrying sexual violence, “A Rapist in Your Path” (“Un violador en tu camino”), which originated in the Chilean women’s collective, Las Tesis, went viral in the fall. Since then, it has been used in protests in over 50 countries. The anthem was chanted at many Women’s Day actions in Latin America and beyond.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched on March 9 throughout Argentina for legal abortion, the separation of church and state, and against gender-based violence. A group of demonstrators blocked a road in solidarity with education workers, mostly women, who are fighting for better wages and working conditions in small cities.

Some 300,000 protesters marched through Montevideo, Uruguay, against the right-wing government and the real threat of losing the rights to legal abortion and same-sex marriage. Police threatened the crowd with water cannons and riot gear.

‘Nothing will break Cuban women’

In socialist Cuba, Teresa Amarelles Boue, secretary-general of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), led the island’s main rally in Cabaiguan, in Sancti Spiritus province, on March 6. She recognized the superb performance of the province’s FMC branch and emphasized that despite the difficult conditions imposed on Cuba by the U.S. blockade, nothing will break the resistance and resilience of Cuban women.

This year’s IWWD was dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the FMC, the 90th anniversary of the birth of its founder Vilma Espín, and other young revolutionary women and farmers whose organizations are represented in Congress. Espín proudly defended socialist principles, without which, she said, women remain invisible in history.

On this special day, Cuban women celebrated their achievements in education, government, health care and scientific research. These are the products of women’s efforts and the government’s will.

Honor Albertina Sisulu!

South Africa [Credit: African National Congress Women’s League]

Rallies and other activities took place on the African continent from Algeria to Kenya to South Africa.

The African National Congress Women’s League celebrated Women’s Day by opening up the Albertina Sisulu School of Leadership for women in Tweeling, Free State, South Africa. Its purpose is to “raise awareness and resources for the struggle for women’s emancipation and the fight against violence on women and children.”

Albertina Sisulu, a leader of the anti-apartheid resistance, was a key organizer of the historic march on Aug. 9, 1956, of 20,000 women in Pretoria against the racist identity pass requirement for Black women. When this hero died at 92, she was the longest-serving ANC member and leader of the ANC Women’s League. Her spouse was ANC leader Walter Sisulu, imprisoned for 25 years at Robben Island.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union of South Africa celebrated the day with an event, “The role of working-class women in the class struggle,” in Johannesburg. Women union leaders from nine provinces were among the participants.

The South African Communist Party celebrated the “struggles against capitalism and all forms of oppression” in Zamdela, Free State province. Joyce Moloi-Moropa, national secretary of the party, spoke in front of a stage banner reading “Stop Gender-Based Violence.”

Sisters not Strangers welcomes migrants


Demonstrations were held across Europe on IWWD. In England, March for Women organized a large action in London, which was joined by climate justice activists. Sisters not Strangers, led by refugees and asylum-seeking women, held an activity in Manchester to welcome immigrants.

Huge marches took place across Spain demanding equal rights on the job, legal abortion and an end to sexist violence. A lead banner in the capital, Madrid, read, “With rights, without barriers. Feminists without frontiers!”

Tens of thousands of women marched for equality through Paris, France, including members of the General Confederation of Labor. Activists with the Femen organization denounced the patriarchy. Protesters decried the epidemic of domestic violence and demanded shelters and other services for victims and survivors.

Protests in Berlin and Cologne, Germany, notably showed solidarity with transgender women.

Police in Istanbul, Turkey, fired tear gas on thousands of demonstrators who were trying to march along the city’s main street to reach historic Taksim Square. Their demands: equal rights in the workplace and in education, and an end to sexist violence and the patriarchy. Women bravely tried to break through police barricades, as they consistently do whenever their marches are blocked.

Free Palestinian prisoners!

International Working Women’s Day is a time to honor our heroic Palestinian sisters who have lived under U.S.-based Israeli occupation for decades and have struggled against it with great courage and strength. The brutal Israeli state imprisons resisters, with 5,000 in jail today. Currently 43 women are in Damon Prison; 17 are mothers.

New York City [Photo: Brenda Ryan]

Khalida Jarrar, 57 years old, is an internationally known political leader, member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Palestine Legislative Council, and advocate for Palestinian political prisoners. She has been jailed by the Israeli state four times.

After being imprisoned for 20 months, often in solitary confinement, without charges or a trial, Jarrar was released in February 2019. Eight months later, she was re-arrested and charged with “holding a position in a prohibited organization,” the PFLP. Freed a week before IWWD, Jarrar asserted she will not stop protesting Israel’s oppression of her people. This strong, steadfast fighter emphasizes “the age of freedom will come.”

Women rallied for their rights in Lahore, Islamabad and across Pakistan, despite reactionary opposition.

Women in Shaheen Bagh inspire world

India [Credit: All India Progressive Women’s Association]

Women from throughout India joined their sisters in the Shaheen Bagh neighborhood in Delhi on March 8 in a show of solidarity. For three months, women of all ages courageously carried out an occupation there to protest the anti-Muslim Citizen Amendment Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens, promoted by reactionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi. These women have inspired the world, say their supporters, and started a “revolution.”

The All India Progressive Women’s Association organized protest marches and other events around the country on IWWD, calling for Modi’s government to scrap the CAA and NRC. They recognized the leading role of women in the fight against these unjust policies from Shaheen Bagh to Jawaharlal Nehru University-Jamia. Women workers and students joined these actions to also demand the government ensure jobs, decent wages and dignity for women and to provide justice for victims of gender-based violence.

Bangladesh [Credit: Green Bangla Garment Workers Federation]

Garment workers, organized and unorganized, marched for their rights in Bangladesh. Eighty percent of the 4 million workers there who produce clothing — and super-profits — for global brands are women who work in unsafe factories for poverty-level wages.

South Korea, normally the site of huge protests of women workers on March 8, is battling the coronavirus and did not have an annual rally. Instead, health care workers were honored that day.

Workers in Bangkok, Thailand, demanded labor protections and rights.

‘Oust Duterte!’ resounds in Manila

An effigy of Philippines President Roberto Duterte was burned on IWWD in Manila, the capital, as thousands of women and people of all genders and ages, including industrial and agrarian workers, demonstrated against his autocratic rule, political repression and virulent sexism.

The National Network for Agrarian Reform Advocates Youth Sector broadcast about the daily harassment faced by women agricultural workers who want gender equality at work. Banners and signs called for an end to crimes against women and the people, harassment of health care workers and farmers, and attacks on Indigenous communities and militant groups. One banner read, “Rural women resist. Oust Duterte!” Other slogans demanded freedom for all political prisoners. Some protesters’ signs asserted: “Stop U.S. military exercises in the Philippines!”

The Philippines [Credit: Gabriela Philippines]

Gabriela, the National Alliance of Philippine Women, denounced misogynist in chief Duterte for his threats of violence against women political activists and vile slurs against women and for encouraging the growing epidemic of domestic abuse, sexual harassment and rape. Many of their signs raised issues affecting women workers, such as contract labor and job security.

Rallies and marches were held in several other areas of the country with similar demands.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, hundreds of people of all genders, along with members of many organizations and labor unions, marched to insist the government act to stop sexist violence, overturn discriminatory laws on gender and pass legislation guaranteeing women’s rights and protection for migrant workers. Demonstrators adamantly called for recognition of gender diversity.

Lini Zurlia, coordinator of the Women’s Movement against Violence Alliance, emphasized that patriarchal values are embedded in the government. She said the “state is the perpetrator [as it] legitimizes violence against women through repressive regulations.” (Jakarta Post, March 8)