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Strikes are taking place across the UK for International Women’s Day – here’s why

Women across the UK are protesting to demand no more women are murdered, for the decriminalisation of sex work and for action on the climate crisis. Here’s how to get involved.

Strikes and protests are being organised across the country this week to mark International Women’s Day (IWD). 

IWD is an internationally organised event that’s been going for over a hundred years, to both mark the achievements of women, and call for action in achieving gender equality. The theme for this year’s week of action is ‘Break the bias’, highlighting the stereotypes and discrimination women face across all levels of society that works to prevent gender equality.

While traditionally, a strike is the withdrawal of labour from work, there is widespread understanding that much of the labour undertaken by women goes unpaid, which is part of the problem. 

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Women’s Climate Strike says that a strike does not have to be from paid work – they use the word strike “very broadly, to mean ‘striking’ up a conversation, ‘striking’ a pose, ‘striking’ a tone, or striking from any kind of work (including unpaid)”.

The Women’s Labour Strike and Sex/ Work strike is protesting with a simple demand: “We want to live” in the face of continued violence and murder of women, and targetted violence by the police while undertaking sex work. 

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The protests have the added significance of marking a year since the death of Sarah Everard who was raped and murdered by police officer Wayne Couzens. The murder sparked a national call for action on violence against women and girls, including better education around misogyny. But despite government pledges, The Big Issue has found teachers fear progress in schools is still lacking.

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Here are some of the different organisations undertaking activism and protest this IWD in the UK, and why. 

Women’s Labour Strike

Women’s Strike 2022 is taking place across the UK to demand the end of violence against women and an end to the “silence” from institutions around the murder of women. 

Feminist groups including Sisters Uncut, Momentum, Young Greens, regional branches of unions, and sex worker advocacy groups are joining forces on March 8 to “demand that no more women are murdered: in our homes, on the streets, or in our jobs.”

“The Policing and Crime Bill uses the language of “protecting women” but explicitly targets those of us most at risk: migrants, trans women, sex workers, women of colour, (Gypsy, Roma Traveller) communities,” says the Women’s Strike

“The hostile and racist immigration system tightens around women facing deportation, drowns our sisters at sea when they try to seek safety, and criminalises our sisters for speaking out,” it continues. 

Where and when

Protests are taking place across the UK on March 8 including; Bristol: 6pm College Green, Plymouth: 12pm Sundial, Armada Way, Cardiff: 6pm Betty Campbell Monument, and 6pm Leicester Square, London. Find out more here

Sex/ Work strike

Decrim Now is calling on all sex workers and “those who consider themselves feminists” to march with them on March 8 to demand the decriminalisation of sex work.

Decrim Now is a grassroots campaign group led by sex workers, trade unionists and feminists calling for sex work to be decriminalised. It is organising a sex work strike to protest the violence that sex workers face in their workplaces, homes and on the the streets.

The protest is calling for an end to “violent, racist, brothel raids,” as well as the right to conduct sex work in safety and without police intervention.

Sex workers are encouraged to leave their brothels, strip clubs or homes to take a stand against the “sexist, racist and criminal laws that jeopardise our lives as sex workers.”

From 6pm on March 8, strikers will not see clients, answer their phones or sell sex. 

Selling sex is legal in the UK, however women who work together, for safety among other reasons, can be prosecuted for brothel-keeping, or receive a criminal record for loitering and soliciting. Decrim Now is calling for sex workers to be able to “together for safety without being criminalised”. 

When and where

A protest is organised for 8pm in London’s Leicester Square.

Women’s Climate Strike 

Women’s Climate Strike is calling on all women to take climate action on International Women’s Day under the theme The Wait of the World.

Women are overwhelmingly impacted by the climate crisis. The UN has found that women make up 80 per cent of climate refugees, yet women’s voices are largely missing at high level climate negotiations such as COP26.  

The focused action hopes to encourage conversations about climate change in more rural communities, link women together to increase resilience, and put pressure on local MPs to vote for climate action/bring demands for climate action to government, as well as calling for an immediate end to the use of fossil fuels.

The IWD 2022 event in London will host a vigil every hour at ten minutes to the hour remember female environmental activists around the world who have been murdered for the work and campaigning. 

When and where

A 24-hour vigil will take place outside the Scottish Parliament Building, Holyrood, in Edinburgh from 7pm on March 7 until 7pm on March 8. 

A protest will also take place in London’s Parliament Square from 2pm to 6pm, as well as in Wrexham. For more details, take a look at the Women’s Climate Strike map here

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