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Women’s strike: glass ceilings and missing statues

© Belga
© Belga

The women’s strike held yesterday, on the International Day of the Rights of Women, made its effects felt in different ways across the country. A brief round-up: Several thousand people – 15,000 according to the organisers, 4,000 according to police – took part in the main march in Brussels. The march was organised jointly by the Collecti.e.f 8 maars with Amnesty International, whose campaign at the moment deals with inappropriate sexual conduct in public places, in the workplace and on social media. Another 1,700 women took part in a march in Liege.

About 100 female employees of the Free University of Brussels (VUB) walked out of work to take part in the demonstration against sexism and discrimination. They gathered on the main campus in Etterbeek before taking the train to join the main march. “The battle is not yet won even at the VUB,” said Jenneke Christiaens, professor of criminology and union representative. And she pointed to research that shows that at current rates of change, it will take until 2050 before women achieve gender parity in the Flemish universities. “The universities have a highly resistant glass ceiling,” she said.

The non-profit organisation Vrouwen De Straat Op – Noms Peut-Être used the occasion to protest at the negligible number of metro stations in Brussels given the names of notable women compared to men. Their campaign consisted in changing the names of half of the stations named after men – Schuman, for instance, became Louise Weiss, named after the French author and European politician.

The media platform Bruzz launched a poll asking for nominations for women who deserve to be commemorated with a statue in Brussels. The number of women depicted in the 600 or so free-standing statues in the region is low, particularly when only considering statues of real women rather than symbolic figures or nymphs, allegories and the like. The cause? The legacy of the culture of the 19th century, according to art historians Hans De Wolf and Marjan Sterckx. Bruzz has created a map showing the locations of the eight statues of real women in the city: Gabrielle Petit, Edith Cavell, Queen Elisabeth, Lucretia, Cleopatra, Queen Astrid (twice) and Edith Cavell and Marie Lepage.

The Bruzz nominations include Angela Davis, Marie Curie and climate strikers Greta Thunberg and Anuna De Wever. Readers’ own nominations are invited.

On the downside, waste management agency Bruxelles Propreté/Net Brussels has blamed a partial failure to pick up rubbish bags in 13 communes on the women’s strike, without further explanation.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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