SOME of the UK's first "women's strikes" are to be held in Scottish cities to mark International Women's Day on Thursday.

Organisers claim the country is seeing a new burgeoning social movement of women who have had enough of gender inequality and are prepared to turn to radical tactics.

With the last World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap report noting gender inequality was widening, and economic parity between men and women now predicted to take 217 years to close, leading campaigners, trade unionists and commentators told the Sunday Herald that while strike action was still on a small scale, they felt "exhilarated" by the growing momentum of calls for social change.

International Women's Day (IWD), a worldwide event on March 8 that celebrates women’s achievements while calling for gender equality, this year takes the theme "press for progress" asking women to keep up the pressure from movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, though a series of events, protests, conferences, arts events and marches.

IWD's radical roots can be traced to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours while it was a women's demonstration in Petrograd on 8 March 1917 that led to the overthrow of the Tsar and sparked the Russian revolution.

The day was finally recognised by the United Nations in 1975, and has since been celebratory in tone. However in recent years it has also been co-opted by the women's strike movement, which originated in Argentina in 2015 when hundreds of thousands took to the streets as part of the Ni Una Menos (not one more) protests in Argentina – dubbed "feminism for the 99 percent". It was first staged to protest violence against women but for IWD 2017 some sectors, such as teachers went on strike throughout the country. The strikes spread across South and Central America and beyond with protests taking place in 40 countries across the globe last year and 56 expected to take part this week.

This is the first year that action – which calls on all women to refuse to all work whether paid or unpaid, economic or domestic – has been co-ordinated in the UK. Planning committees are only present in London and Birmingham but small scale walkouts, protests, and occupations are planned in cities across the country including Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Organisers are calling on men to support participating women by looking after children and picking up additional duties for the day.

Camille Barbagallo, a UK organiser, said interest in the strikes – which she expects to involve thousands of women across the UK – was being driven by a whole range of issues from protests against Trump and the effective ban on abortion in Poland to UK austerity politics. "Within the context of the UK we need the women's strike to work against the government," she said. "We have children presenting to doctors with rickets, single mothers and their children made homeless and cuts to refuges and rape crisis centres. At the same time women are still doing the majority of the domestic labour and caring roles and it is work that remains invisible. They feel exhausted by telling the same stories again and again. Women have had enough."

Emily Keal who is organising an event at Aberdeen University, said: "The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns have allowed us to speak up about injustices that have happened both in the past and those that are unfortunately still very present. Previously it was understood that female radical protests won us the right to vote. International Women's Day used to be about the recognition of rights that women had gained and celebrating these rights. While I think this is important, I also think that the likes of [suffragettes] Emmeline Pankhurst and Emily Davidson would recognise that the current state of affairs for women still demands social action if anything is going to change."

In Glasgow, the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) will also hold an International Women's Day dispute as part of its third week of action in protest at proposed changes to pensions, to highlight the way in which the gender pay gap means women are disproportionately affected.

Elsewhere, a Women's Strike gathering at the Mound in Edinburgh aims to highlight a range of issues affecting women including the gender pay gap. In 2017, women effectively worked "for free" for 51 days of the year because of pay difference with men. Women are also paid less than half of what men get at some of Britain's major companies, according to recent figures.

Other protests will be held in support of women calling for the Irish Government to Repeal the Eighth amendment which bans abortion, and the Scottish Women's Convention (SWC) will host an event at the Scottish Parliament to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the right to vote. "We have campaigned for years," said chair Agnes Tolmie. "We have some causes to celebrate, but we still don't have equal pay or equal access to the boardroom. The leader of the free world is a misogynist. Women are saying enough is enough."

Academic and women's historian Lesley Orr agreed. "There has been a perceptible change," she said. "I have been involved in the women's movement for decades and lots of people have been doing really good work. But there is a convergence and a coming together now. We need to seize that and drive that forward."

Adele Patrick, founder and creative development manager of Glasgow's Women's Library – which is reporting unprecedented interest in its events and collections – said that she felt there was a growing understanding of the need for a collective feminist movement working together to drive forward gender equality. "Our sense is that in the last 18 months or so something significant has happened. It's being driven by younger women, and by older women demanding fair pensions. It takes in issues like Black Lives Matter as well as #MeToo and it's pushed forward by the grassroots organisations and radical campaigns. I feel like we are reaching a tipping point where it starts to move into the mainstream debate. All the seeds are being planted and hopefully we will see them blossom. It feels exhilarating."


An end to sexual harassment and bullying at work

Equal pay and equal distribution of domestic labour

Pay rises acknowledging the disproportionate contribution of women to essential services such as education and the NHS

An end to violence against women

A welfare system that allows women to feed their families and heat their home

An end to "slut shaming"

Rights for LGBT women

An end to "state sponsored racism" including immigration raids affecting women and their families


SHE led thousands of women through the streets of Govan to fight for fair rents and secured the rights of millions across the UK to enjoy the same - now finally a statue of Mary Barbour is to be unveiled in her home town on International Women's Day, which organisers say they hope will inspire a new generation of activists to stand-up for women's rights.

The statue of Barbour, who campaigned to improve housing and conditions for working people during the 1915 Rent Strikes in Govan – which led to the Rent Restriction Act – has been crowdfunded by the Remember Mary Barbour Association with the final sculpture designed and made by artist Andrew Brown. It features Barbour leading a group of women and children through the streets and will be sited at Govan Cross.

A social pioneer, Barbour was also elected as one of the first woman councillors for Glasgow in 1920, and appointed the first woman Bailie of the City of Glasgow in 1924 and campaigned for women's access to reproductive and sexual health.

Bailie John Kane, Govan councillor and treasurer of the Remember Mary Barbour Association, said: "We have chosen to unveil the statue on this day to send out a strong message. There are only statues of four other women in this city, which means we pay very little tribute to the hard work women do in our community.

"She was incredibly forward looking and led a campaign that had such a positive outcome for anyone who rented property. She didn't rest on her laurels either. She went on to have a distinguished career as a councillor and a Baillie. The Remember Mary Barbour Association wanted to deliver a statue that would inspire people. These are times that strong women are needed who can stand up and say there are women who need to have their rights recognised."

Jennifer McCarey, branch development officer, UNISON Scotland, who has supported women fighting a long running £500m equal pay claim against Glasgow City Council, said it was fitting that the unveiling of the statue was on International Women's Day. She added: "She led protests against the landlords and against the government, and she believed in the power of the people. A lot of people don't know that she then went on to set up a sexual health clinic for married women because to have free, legal and safe access to sexual health care is core to achieving equality. It was terribly emboldened in those days.

"What might be striking about so many of the events around International Women's Day is that they are so diverse. But they bring together the past and the present. They are all about pay equality, about making choices and access to freedom."


WOMEN need to be given more opportunities to take part in sport to address "astonishing" levels of inequality, according to leading women in sport.

The call comes from members of the Scottish Government's new Women and Girls in Sport advisory group which includes Shelia Begbie, director of domestic rugby at the Scottish Rugby Union, Maureen McGonigle, founder of Scottish Women in Sport, as well as young sportswomen such as Gemma Lumsdaine, who competes in wheelchair basketball. The 12-strong group of women is aiming tolevel the playing field and ensure as many women and girls as men and boys take part in sport.

Previous research shows 99 percent of sponsorship investment and 95 percent of media coverage is dedicated to men’s sport. Though women in sport are gradually becoming more visible with BBC Alba screening women's football, it is claimed the lack of investment in sportswomen means less ordinary women and girls take part.

Other barriers include women's lack of leisure time – reportedly five hours less than men per week – and women and girl's negative or limited experiences of PE, related to self-esteem and body issues, which can see women dropping out of sport. Teenage girls and women are significantly less likely to participate in recreational sport, which impacts on health and wellbeing. Professional opportunities for women within all levels of sport are restricted - only14 percent of CEO positions across Scotland’s national governing bodies in sport are held by women, and there is a large gender pay gap within elite sports.

Vivienne McLaren, chair of Scottish Women's Football, one of the government's advisors on women in sport, said: "There are so many sporting organisations and communities and schools doing so much but they are often working in their own silos. We need a strategy that pulls all of this together." McLaren said that while women's football had made "huge" gains in recent years, the lack of investment was still frustrating, leading to fewer career opportunities for girls interested in taking the sport further.

However she insisted role models did exist, with young people inspired by the determination of acclaimed speed skater Elise Christie, from Livingstone, who faced heartbreaking disqualification in the Winter Olympics, and Scottish footballer Kim Little. She claimed there was also an important role for parents and teachers to encourage girls to take part in sport and avoid gender stereotypes.

Amanda Jones, a specialist in employment and discrimination law and director of Hibernian Football Club, who is also a government advisor, added: "We identified that part of the big drop off was in teenage years. There are particular factors there that don't stop boys. We're also looking at ordinary women. How many men do you know who still play 5-aside? But women often don't grow up to continue to take part in sport. We need to make sure there are as many options as possible available."

She claimed men had a powerful role to play in effecting change, citing Andy Murray's support for equal pay in tennis as part of the HeforShe campaign as an excellent example of calling out the "astonishing" difference in pay for sportsmen and women. "Transparency is really important," she said. "There is also a place for positive action if there is an under-representation of women."

Sports Minister Aileen Campbell said: "There has been some excellent work done across Scotland to increase female participation in sport and physical activity, and we are seeing more teenage girls taking part. But much more needs to be done to raise both participation and awareness. Sport and physical activity should be accessible to anybody, regardless of their gender. I am looking forward to [the advisory group's] results and the key role they will play in advising the government on how to achieve our aims."