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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Three women hold a sign with a message that reads in Spanish, “See how we end up,” during a demonstration marking International Women's Day on Friday in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Saturday, March 09, 2019 1:00 am

Cry for rights heard worldwide

Rallies fill streets on International Women's Day

Associated Press

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Marches and protests were held Friday across the globe to mark International Women's Day under the slogan #BalanceforBetter, with calls for a more gender-balanced world.

The day, sponsored by the United Nations since 1975, celebrates women's achievements and aims to further their rights. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a ceremony in New York that “remarkable progress on women's rights and leadership” in recent decades has sparked a backlash from “an entrenched patriarchy.”

Pope Francis hailed the “irreplaceable contribution of women” to fostering peace. “Women make the world beautiful, they protect it and keep it alive,” the Argentine Jesuit said.

A message from President Donald Trump said the U.S. celebrates women's “vision, leadership, and courage,” and reaffirms its “commitment to promoting equal opportunity for women everywhere.” On the eve prior, first lady Melania Trump saluted female human rights activists, police officers and an investigative journalist from 10 countries for their courage.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo separately recognized women in Iran for protesting the requirement that they wear a head covering known as a hijab in public and a Ukrainian activist who died in 2018 after she was attacked with sulfuric acid.

Nation by nation

Millions around the world demanded equality amid a persistent salary gap, violence and widespread inequality.

UKRAINE:About 300 people gathered on Mykhailivska Square in central Kiev on Friday for the women's rights demonstration. Several dozen far-right demonstrators stood nearby, holding placards reading “God! Homeland! Patriarchy!” and “Feminism is destroying Ukrainian families.”

SPAIN:Many female employees didn't show up to work Friday. Others also halted domestic work or left to men the care of children and ill or elderly people. In the evening, cities across the country lit landmark buildings with purple lights as hundreds of thousands poured into the streets.

GERMANY: Topless feminist protesters went to one of the country's most famous red-light districts in Hamburg and pulled down a metal barrier wall intended to keep out women – other than prostitutes. A half-dozen women belonging to the Femen activist group had the slogan “No brothels for women” written on their bare back in black lettering.

FRANCE: The first Simone Veil prize went Friday to a Cameroonian activist who has worked against forced marriages and other violence against girls and women. Aissa Doumara Ngatansou was married against her will at age 15 but insisted upon continuing her studies as a young wife. She has since turned her attention to victims of Boko Haram extremists.

RUSSIA: International Women's Day is a public holiday but mostly lauds outdated gender roles. As he does every year, President Vladimir Putin gave a speech thanking women for their patience, good grace and support.

ARGENTINA: Women were galvanized to take to the streets after a bill that would have legalized abortion was rejected by lawmakers last year. They prepared for a large march from Congress to the country's historic Plaza de Mayo square later Friday, during which they were set to protest against violence.

PUERTO RICO: Hundreds clad in purple T-shirts protested to demand safer housing as the U.S. territory struggles to recover from Hurricane Maria, while others held up signs with the names of more than 20 women reportedly killed by their partners on the island last year.

BOLIVIA: Hundreds of women rallied in main cities, carrying giant undergarments bearing messages such as, “underwear of an irresponsible and abusive father” and “underwear of a child molester,” as Chilean women also demanded access to free and safe abortions.

INDIA: Hundreds of women marched on the streets of New Delhi demanding an end to domestic violence, sexual attacks and discrimination in jobs. Boys are prized more than girls in India. Thousands of Indian women are killed – often doused in gasoline and burned to death – every year because the groom or his family feel the dowry of the bride is inadequate.

INDONESIA: In the capital of Jakarta, several hundred men and women carried colorful placards calling for an end to discriminative practices such as the termination of employment for pregnancy and exploitative work contracts.

SOUTH KOREA: Women wearing black cloaks and pointed hats marched against what they describe as a “witch hunt” of feminists in a deeply conservative society. College student Noh Seo-young said South Korea struggles to accept that women are “also humans” and that women have to fight until they can “walk around safely.”

NORTH KOREA: On one of the few national holidays not explicitly political in nature, people dressed up for family photo shoots or bought roses for their mothers or wives at the many small, bright orange street stalls in central Pyongyang that sell flowers.

ETHIOPIA: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who named one of the world's few “gender-balanced” Cabinets last year, told a gathering that “women are the pillars of the nation and the least recognized for their sacrifices.”

KENYA: Women protested against gender-based violence in the capital of Nairobi. “We haven't gotten to a stage where women are comfortable to come out and say, 'I was sexually abused,'” said protester Esther Passaris. “So what we need to do is slowly, slowly grow.”