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FEMINISM

How the world marked International Women’s Day

Protests, strikes and studies -- people around the globe took action to mark International Women's Day and to push for action to obtain equality.

How the world marked International Women's Day
Women hold placards during a demonstration marking International Women's Day in Barcelona on Saturday. Photo: LLUIS GENE / AFP
Here are some of the events: 
 
Strikes and tear gas
 
Across Spain, women downed tools in a strike for equality, a mass movement which drew in female employees from across the spectrum, from nuns to journalists and even the mayor of Madrid, Manuela Carmena. Authorities said more than half a million people took part in Women's Day protests in Madrid and Barcelona.
 
 
In France, thousands of people took to the streets to mark the day, with demonstrators in Paris carrying banners with slogans including “Equal pay, equal work” and “we will never be silent again”.
 
In Turkey authorities sought to quash Women's Day demonstrations on Friday, with police firing tear gas to disperse a sea of demonstrators at the entrance of the city's main pedestrianised shopping street Istiklal Avenue.
 
Protesters had gathered at the central avenue despite a ban on their protest, with crowds chanting slogans including: “We are not silent, we are not scared, we are not obeying.” They were blocked by police in riot gear, who then used tear gas and dogs to disperse them.   
 
 
Do more at home, UN tells men
 
Of all the factors blocking equality in employment, the biggest is the heavy burden of caregiving borne by women, a UN report has found, saying the pace of change will only change if men take on far more unpaid tasks at home. 
 
“In the last 20 years, the amount of time women spent on unpaid care and domestic work has hardly fallen, and men's has increased by just eight minutes a day,” said Manuela Tomei of the UN's International Labour Organization. 
 
Globally, women perform more than three-quarters of the total time spent on unpaid care work, averaging four hours and 25 minutes per day, while men only do one hour and 23 minutes.
 
“The imbalanced division of work within the household between men and women is one of the most resilient features of gender inequality,” the report said.
 
 
Designed with a gender bias?
 
Women's lives are impacted every day by a built-in “gender data gap” that touches everything from urban life to design, says a new book called “Invisible Women”. 
 
British author Caroline Criado Perez says it is the story of “what happens when we forget to account for half of humanity”, citing examples which range from slight irritations to life-threatening situations. 
 
From cars designed using crash-test dummies based on the average male, to doctors misdiagnosing women suffering a heart attack because their symptoms differ from those of men, the bias pervades modern society, and can have fatal consequences, she says. 
 
Even consumer products are often male-centric with voice recognition software far more likely to accurately recognise men's speech, and mobile phones often too large for women's hands. “Designers may believe they are 
making products for everyone, but in reality they are mainly making them for men.”
 
In the director's chair, but paid less
 
The number of films directed by women has risen steadily in France over the past decade, but there remains significant inequality, notably in salaries, a study by the French film council says. 
 
Back in 2008, just 43 films were made by women, but in 2017, that figure rose to 70. Women directors were also more active in France than in other European countries, making 370 films between 2012-2017, compared with 242 in Germany and 87 in the UK. But wages were notably lower, with women directors earning on average 42.3 percent less than their male counterparts. 
 
Protesters push a giant effigy depicting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as they march toward Malacanang palace during celebration of International Women's Day in Manila on March 8, 2018. The protesters assailed the government of President Rodrigo Duterte on issues ranging from continued violence against women, drug war, tax reform program, and changing of the constitution among others. Photo: TED ALJIBE / AFP
Protesters push a giant effigy depicting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as they march toward Malacanang palace on Saturday. Photo: TED ALJIBE / AFP
 
Thousands protest Duterte misogyny
 
About 4,000 demonstrators marched through Manila chanting slogans against President Rodrigo Duterte, who has repeatedly made jokes about rape and last year admitted indecently touching the family maid when he was a teenager.
 
Aides brushed off his comments as jokes, but activists have denounced his “misogynistic” statements as “unacceptable, pointing to statistics showing a 153 percent increase in rape from the decade before he was elected. 
 
With one woman or child raped in the Philippines every hour, activists aiming to raise awareness about gender-based violence staged an exhibition of clothes worn by victims, called 'Don't tell me how to Dress'.
 
Mourning murdered women
 
In Mexico, demonstrators held marches and staged a series of performances with graphic depictions of domestic abuse in Ecatepec, a town one hour outside Mexico City known as a flashpoint for violence against women.
 
Mexico State, where Ecatepec is located, led the country in femicides in 2017, with 301 women and girls murdered, according to official figures.
 
“It makes me sad to wake up every day and see in the news that another (woman) has disappeared, another body has been found. It makes me sad to realize I'm very vulnerable as a woman and that I never know if I'm going to make it home,” Fernanda Pando, 23, a recent graduate in psychology who has lived her whole life in the town, told AFP.
 
Flowers for mums and wives
 
In Pyongyang, Flower Shop No. 5 did a brisk trade in flowers on International Women's Day, which is a public holiday in North Korea, as a steady stream of customers turned up to buy blooms for their wives, mothers and significant others. 
 
As the North's founder Kim Il Sung once said: “In our country, women are in charge of one of the wheels of the revolution.”
 
Campervans are parked in the depot of Wicked Campers, an Australian campervan firm known for the eye-catching slogans on its vehicles, in Sydney on July 14, 2014. The firm on July 14 faced outrage on social media after thousands signed an online petition against its
Campervans are parked in the depot of Wicked Campers, an Australian campervan firm that has been targetted online for its “misogynistic” messages. Photo: WILLIAM WEST / AFP
 
Oz takes aim at sexist campervans
 
Australia's government used International Women's Day to take aim at Wicked Campers, a “misogynistic” campervan firm known for its fleet of vehicles spray-painted with crude, sexist graffiti and slogans, which have sparked outrage. 
 
“We have no tolerance for sexist, misogynistic and offensive slogans on campervans,” said Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer, while Transport Minister Michael McCormack said they “belong in a junkyard, not on Australian roads.”
 
'Peace is born of women'
 
Pope Francis praised women as the source of peace, hailing their contribution to building a world “that can be a home for all”.
 
“Women make the world beautiful, they protect it and keep it alive. They bring the grace of renewal, the embrace of inclusion, and the courage to give of oneself,” he said. “Peace, then, is born of women, it arises and is rekindled by the tenderness of mothers. Thus the dream of peace becomes a reality when we look towards women…  If we dream of a future peace, we need to give space to women.”
 
Cameroonian activist Aissa Doumara Ngatansou (C) poses for a photo with French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (R) after she received the Simone Veil prize, at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, on March 8, 2019 during International Women's Day. Aissa Doumara Ngatansou has worked against forced marriages and other violence against girls and women. Thibault Camus / POOL / AFP
Cameroonian activist Aissa Doumara Ngatansou (C) poses for a photo with French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (R) after she received the Simone Veil prize on Saturday. Photo: Thibault Camus / POOL / AFP
 
Cameroon activist wins French prize
 
France awarded the first Simone Veil Prize to Aissa Doumara Ngatansou, a Cameroonian woman who has spent 20 years helping victims of rape and forced marriages.
 
On receiving the €100,000 ($112,000) prize, Doumara dedicated it to “all women victims of violence and forced marriages” and to those who had escaped the clutches of Boko Haram, the jihadist movement which emerged in Nigeria a decade ago and has terrorised the region. 
 
 
Abuse affects one in three
 
Figures released in an OECD report showed that one in three women have suffered from domestic abuse. But since its last report in 2014, another 15 countries have adopted laws against domestic violence, meaning 132 countries 
criminalise it while 48 do not, it said.
 
In a second report, the OECD found that addressing gender inequalities and encouraging women's participation in the workforce could boost the global economy by $6 trillion, or 7.5 percent of GDP.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Architects in Italy can now use the profession’s female form – here’s why that matters

Three women architects from Bergamo have gained the right to use the female form of 'architect' on their professional stamp. Contributor Rachael Martin spoke to the women behind the campaign about what the landmark decision means to them.

Architects in Italy can now use the profession's female form - here's why that matters
The stamp in its female form. Photo: Francesca Perani

“Architecture is a very male environment that has strong links with the building world,” explains Francesca Perani, adding that only three out of ten architects in Italy are women and that it can be hard to progress in the male-dominated field.

Together with fellow architects Silvia Vitali and Mariacristina Brembilla, Perani campaigned for several months to be able to call herself 'architetta' rather than the male form, 'architetto'.

Their request was accepted by the Order of Architects in Bergamo, Lombardy in March, and from Thursday, they – together with other women in the profession – will be able to use the female form in their professional stamp.

For Perani, the introduction of an equivalent word in Italian was more than a simple question of semantics.

“It’s an important evolution, because it gives us our identity as professionals,” she says. “When I was at university, there were no female teachers of design – not just in Italy, but also when I studied abroad.

“But in London, I had a female director who was very supportive of other women, and that was very important for me. Young women today need to see that there are women in the field, women who are promoting their work, not just for themselves but to provide positive role models for new generations.”

Perani co-founded Archidonne, a group for women architects in 2010, which has worked with the Order of Architects to create an equal opportunities committee in 2013, in order to promote equal treatment of men and women within the profession. She says that while women architects typically graduate from university with higher marks and in less time than men, they often find it difficult to progress once they begin work.

The three women. Photo: Francesca Perani

Even when choosing the name for the group, 'Architette' felt like “a step too far”, Perani explained, so they opted for 'Archidonne' – a hybrid of 'architetti' (architects) and 'donne' (women).

However, she's hopeful that the term will now become common parlance. “Just as it was difficult for people to use assessora (councillor) and sindaca (mayor) at first, it’s the same for architetta. They’ll get used to it,” she said.

Laura Onofri, one of the founders of equal opportunities movement SeNonOraQuando? (If not now, when?), agrees.

“One of the factors that can change the patriarchal cultural models within our country is language,” she says. “It isn’t a case of whether a word 'sounds right' or not. It’s about using the right words to define people and circumstances in a way that is not only correct but is equal.”

The issue of sexism inherent to language has long been discussed in Italy. A 1987 book, 'Sexism in the Italian language' by Alma Sabatini, first recommended avoiding the use of 'generic masculine' – for example, saying 'uomo' (man) when referring to people in general. 

Following the publication of the work, Italy's linguistic academy updated its own guide, saying that it was incorrect to avoid using the feminine form when referring to women. And more recently, the President of Italy's Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrini, and Rome mayor Virginia Raggi asked to be called 'la Presidente' and 'la sindaca' respectively.

But why was the issue so important to the three Bergamo architects?

Campaigner Silvia Vitali explains: “The gender gap is apparent in the difficulty women have in getting into the job market, fragmented and discontinued careers, lowly-qualified jobs and – above all – significantly lower incomes than their male counterparts.

“Women engineers and architects respectively have an average income of 56% and 63% less than their male colleagues in spite of the fact that they may be better qualified.”

Vitali's interest in using the female form of her profession was awakened after attending a course on gender and equality at Bergamo University, sponsored by the Department of Equal Opportunities.

She says the course made her more sensitive to issues of gender mainstreaming and highlighted how societal mechanisms slow down women’s progress.

And when Bergamo City Council in October 2016 ruled in favour of revising all terms used in council forms, in order to emphasise both genders, Vitali decided to make an official request to be called 'architetta'. 

Mariacristina Brembilla, the third architect behind the proposal, hopes that using the feminine form will increase visibility for women in the profession and help to break down gender stereotypes.

“We need to break with the idea of the man as the bread-winner and the woman as the caregiver, in order to improve work-family balance and ensure a fairer distribution of tasks and roles within the family,” she says.

“These stereotypes affect all of society, not just self-employed women, and children should be brought up to be aware of gender equality.”

Rachael Martin is a freelance writer. She came to Italy 19 years ago and made it her home. She is bilingual and writes in both English and Italian. Contact Rachael on Instagram or Twitter, or follow her website.

Want to write a guest blog for The Local Italy? Get in touch at [email protected]

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Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

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