The annual international day for the rights of women takes place on 8 March, which this year is also the occasion for the first-ever women’s strike in Belgium, a group calling itself Collecti.e.f 8 Maars has announced. To keep things legal, the French-speaking union CNE is to file an official notice of strike action.
The aim of the strike: to show that, as the collective says, “when women stop, the world stops turning”. The group takes its inspiration from a similar strike last year in Spain, where five million women downed tools and brought the country to a standstill.
The event is open to all women and all who identify as women, in all parts of the country. The strike involves not working, not bringing the kids to school, doing no housework, not studying and not caring for others. The point being to show how women hold an essential place in society, as an argument in favour of equal rights.
A major gathering is being planned in Brussels, but local initiatives are also being encouraged. In the weeks leading up to the strike, workshops will prepare strikers. Around 100 organisers have been meeting this weekend to prepare nationwide actions to accompany the strike. Themes include working conditions, education, racism, emotional support and protection against violence against women. “But there are a good number of demands that have not yet been included in the programme,” one organiser told the VRT.
The collective is largely made up of women from Brussels, from both sides of the language divide, but outposts have been created in Tournai, Antwerp, Liege and Ghent, with more planned in other parts of the country.
Men who support the cause also have a role to play, though not by striking. “They can support us by taking care of the children, taking over household tasks or standing in for women who haven’t come to work on that day,” explained collective member Pauline Forges to the RTBF.