Swiss women stage national strike for equality

Swiss women stage national strike for equality
Women demonstrate in Lausanne ahead of a nationwide women's strike in Switzerland on 14 June 2019Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Women demonstrate in Lausanne ahead of a nationwide strike in Switzerland

Women across Switzerland are preparing for a nationwide strike in protest against what they say is the country's unacceptably slow pace to equality.

Friday's protest comes 28 years after similar action saw half a million women take to the streets in 1991.

Swiss women have long campaigned to accelerate the pace of gender equality.

They joined millions of other women in Europe after World War One ended in 1918 in demanding the right to vote - but did not get it until 1971.

At the time of the 1991 strike there were no women in the Swiss government, and there was no statutory maternity leave.

Appenzell, the last Swiss canton to refuse women the right to vote, had just been ordered to change its policy by Switzerland's Supreme Court.

Image copyright Gosteli Foundation
Image caption Even in the 1920s women complained about the snail's pace with which Switzerland was tackling equal rights at work

How far has Switzerland come?

Some things have changed: there have since been eight female government ministers and the right to maternity leave is now enshrined in law.

However, women in Switzerland still earn on average 20% less than men, they are under-represented in management positions, and childcare remains not only expensive, but in short supply.

Last month, a survey by the International Labour Organisation put Switzerland bottom of the list in pay rates between men and women in senior roles.

Journalist Beatrice Born, who was six months pregnant with her first child when she joined the strike back in 1991, will be striking again on Friday.

Beatrice Born, journalist
We felt amazingly powerful that day. Because so many women took part. I thought, after this, nothing can stand in our way
Beatrice Born
Swiss journalist

When she returned to work following the birth of her daughter in 1991, she got something of a shock. No-one, it seemed, had expected her back, and certainly not full-time. "The resistance was huge," she says.

Paola Ferro, one of the organisers of the 1991 strike, will be back on the streets on Friday, too.

My reasons are the same as they were in 1991 - gender justice
Paola Ferro
Strike organiser

She agrees that some progress has been made in the past 28 years, but points to the wage and pension gap. Swiss women's pensions are 37% lower than men's, primarily because women take time out from work to raise their children.

Nicole, 24
I’m taking part for all the women who aren’t able, or maybe aren’t brave enough to do what they want in life
Aged 24

Why #frauenstreik is trending

A new strike was first suggested last year in response to parliament's decision to introduce more scrutiny on equal pay.

The government's move only related to companies with more than 100 employees, a measure that women trade union leaders dismissed as virtually meaningless.

Since then, women across the country have been mobilising, using social media to take advantage of the power of the hashtag.

#Frauenstreik has been trending for days.

Social media has emerged in recent years as one of the most powerful techniques for quickly raising awareness of a particular issue and mobilising people for protests and demonstrations.

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Media captionHashtags and online campaigns have given women around the world a voice

Nadine, a Swiss law student not even born when the first strike took place in her country, will be among those taking part.

"I think it's a good thing," says the student, who comes from the traditionally conservative canton of Glarus.

"People will get informed about the many disadvantages women still face: we don't get equal pay, men still get prioritised with certain jobs," she adds.

Girls are given fewer chances to go to university or higher education because they are the ones who will have children
Law student

Aida, a 25-year-old yoga teacher, will be striking too.

"I think it's a good opportunity to stand together and show

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