ROME — In the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up, International Women’s Dayarrived on Thursday with a renewed sense of urgency.
For many women, there was a keen awareness of a major shift in the firmament when it came to gender parity, the treatment of women in the workplace and sexual dynamics.
But others — scratching out lives in developing countries in Africa, toiling away at jobs with little pay in Latin America or scrambling to raise children without help in the Middle East — most likely had little time left over to reflect on the day designated to celebrate “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women,” and as a call to action, according to the website.
Nonetheless, Margrethe Vestager, the European competition commissioner, said on Twitter: “There is a lot to fight for: Engage! Women and men alike. We need power to make equality a reality.”
Farida Nabourema, a rights advocate from the West African nation of Togo, tweeted: “Today I celebrate all the female activists that are being abusively detained by dictatorial governments all over the world and in #Africa more particularly. Your courage, dedication and empathy shall not be forgotten, and we will keep fighting with you and for you.”
Some women, fueled by impatience over the long-running fight for equality and the sense that the glacial pace of change would just not do, found large and small ways to protest — with pots and pans, raised fists and howls of rage.
A ‘domestic strike,’ and a discount
To highlight gender inequality, feminist groups in Spain asked women to spend no money and to ignore chores for the day — to go on a “domestic” strike. The newspaper El País posted a video explaining why it was not fully staffed: The women were away.
Hundreds of women gathered at midnight in Puerta del Sol, in the heart of Madrid, to kick off a day of protests across the country, with about 120 demonstrations scheduled later on Thursday. Women banged pots and pans and shouted slogans during the protests.
The mobilization in Spain had the backing of most trade unions. Ten unions called for a 24-hour strike, while others called for two-hour work stoppages. Service on Madrid’s metro system was significantly disrupted after hundreds of trains stopped running.
The women’s strike was covered extensively on Spain’s morning TV and radio shows, but not by the country’s most famous female presenters, who stayed away from work.
“If women stop, it has to be noticed,” Ana Rosa Quintana, a TV presenter, wrote on Twitter.
The issue also generated some controversy. The regional Parliament of Valencia was split on Thursday, as right-leaning female lawmakers took part in a session while their left-wing counterparts left the assembly and hung signs on their chairs that read, “I’m stopping.”
The leader in Valencia of the conservative Popular Party, Isabel Bonig, argued that striking lawmakers ridiculed the sacrifice made by other women because they could leave the session for a few hours without suffering financial consequences — unlike other women in other professions.
Data from the European Union’s statistical provider Eurostat show that women in Spain were paid 13 percent less in the public sector and 19 percent less in the private sector than their male counterparts. In 2016, women’s gross hourly earnings in the European Union were, on average, 16.2 percent below those of men.
The call for a strike went out in England, too, where a group called the Women’s Strike Assembly UK posted on social media: “Today #WeStrike! Wear red, bring an umbrella & join us.” And in France, where the pay gap is 25 percent, according to one paper, Libération, the day’s edition was sold with two prices: 2 euros for women and €2.50 for men.
In Italy, marches were held in dozens of cities and women were encouraged to strike. The Italian post office issued four stamps dedicated to the “Italian female genius.” Countless mimosa tree branches were felled so that women could receive gifts of small bouquets of the odorous yellow flowers.
Representatives of a project called 100 Women against Stereotypes met in Rome to promote an online platform that sponsors female experts in a variety of areas.
As thousands of students marched in Milan on Thursday morning, one group broke off to chant slogans in front of a hospital, protesting the majority of Italian doctors who refuse to perform abortions, even though it is legal.
In Rome, the actress Asia Argento, who has received criticism in Italy for accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, was among those who marched.
Defying Duterte in Manila
In the Philippine capital, women took to the streets and denounced President Rodrigo Duterte as among the worst violators of women’s rights in Asia.
Hundreds of activists sang and danced in a boisterous rally in Plaza Miranda, in central Manila, while handing red and white roses to the mothers, sisters and widows of those suspected of drug offenses who have been slain under Mr. Duterte’s brutal crackdown.
The protesters noted the thousands of people they say have died in extrajudicial killings — accusations the police have denied. One protest leader, Jean Enriquez, condemned Mr. Duterte’s remarks against women, including one in which he asked troops to shoot female communist rebels in the genitals.
“We’re so alarmed,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “We have seen his direct attacks on women under his iron-hand rule, and it’s now time to heighten our resistance.”
In India, where the gang rape of women and sexual assaults on young girls have brought anguish and soul searching, students, teachers and workers in the sex industry marched toward Parliament, demanding action against domestic violence, sexual attacks and discrimination in jobs and wages.
“Unite against violence against women,” one placard read. “My body, My choice,” read another.
In China, the forever boyfriend
Students at Tsinghua University celebrated International Women’s Day with banners making light of a proposed constitutional amendment to scrap term limits and allow President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely, according to news reports.
One banner said that a boyfriend’s term should also have no limits, while another said, “A country cannot exist without a Constitution, as we cannot exist without you!”
Photographs of the banners were shared on Chinese social media before they were swiftly removed — most likely by censors.
‘A revolution afoot’ in South Korea
More than 500 women’s rights leaders gathered in Seoul, vowing to keep up a #MeToo campaign that has gained steam in South Korea. Political leaders raced to join them to voice their support ahead of elections scheduled for June to select mayors and provincial governors.
In central Seoul, feminist activists handed out white roses as a symbol of support for the movement. Nearby, hundreds of labor activists rallied and waved #MeToo signs.
Another group of female workers held a rally holding signs that said, “Stop at 3 p.m.” The wage gap between men and women was so wide in South Korea that women should stop working at that time to break even, they said.
The Korean Women’s Associations United called for reform in the country’s “patriarchal social structure that breeds gender discrimination.”
“We see a revolution afoot,” it said. “And the leader of this revolution is women.”
Marching, despite the Taliban
When the Taliban ruled parts of Afghanistan, many women were too afraid to leave their homes. But on Thursday, hundreds marched in Kabul, the capital, to remind their leaders that much work needed to be done to give Afghan woman a voice, ensure their education and protect them from often brutal violence and an oppressive patriarchic system.
The head of the Independent Human Rights Commission, Sima Samar, speaking about women in the country’s security forces, declared, “Your safety represents the safety of all Afghan women.”