On Friday 14 June 2019, the World YWCA joined a “purple wave” of hundreds of thousands of women across Switzerland that took the streets to demand gender equality in all spheres of life and work. Specific demands included a higher pay, greater equality and more respect, protesting that one of the world’s wealthiest countries continues to treat half its population unfairly.
The World YWCA took this opportunity to extend an invitation to friends and family of the YWCA in Geneva to come together to march for equal rights. The invitation included an open house for a feminist picnic and to collaboratively create signs in preparation for the strike.
Approximately 30 people responded to the invitation and together with the World YWCA staff, the group crafted signs that read the existing need to advance gender equality and to tackle the culture of sexism that still prevails. The gathering highlighted the need to show solidarity with Swiss women who were unable to participate in the nationwide strike, and the importance to stand together in solidarity with women whose human rights are being denied and violated all across the world.
The fight for equal rights in Switzerland has advanced more slowly than in many other contexts: in Switzerland, women only got the right to vote in 1971. Only three countries in the world were even later than Switzerland. Only in 1981 were women and men granted legal equality. But ten years later, in 1991, the situation for Swiss women had not changed much, and a first nationwide strike was organised: women all around the country put down their work, both paid and unpaid, to demand actual equality. In 2019, nearly 30 years after the first strike by Swiss women, many of the demands remained the same, as many women feel little progress has been made since.
- Women in Switzerland on average still make 20 percent less than men.
- Women’s political participation is stagnating at 28,9% of women in parliament
- According to recent research by Amnesty International, one in five women in Switzerland experiences sexual violence.
- One in seven women loses her employment after coming back from a maternity leave – while there is still only one day of paternity leave.
Furthermore, women are more likely than men to be victims of other more prevalent forms of domestic violence, and foreign women
and girls in Switzerland are more than twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence from their partner.
With feminist movements, marches and festivals being organised across the country all year, initiatives and mobilisations like the strike in Switzerland continue to address and condemn lingering issues of discrimination, harassment and wage inequality with renewed vigour.
For more information about the strike on 14 June 2019, click here for the website