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International Women’s Day Women take to the streets for their rights

demo in bern by women

The demo in Bern on Friday

(Keystone / Peter Schneider)

International Women’s Day has been marked in Switzerland with public protests, calls for equal pay and the overnight changing of street names.

On Friday people in Zurich woke up to find “male” street changed names into “female” ones– so Josefstrasse because Mariastrasse and Thomasweg became Taminiqueweg, courtesy of activists from the trade union Uniaexternal link.

how Thomasweg became Taminiqueweg
(© Keystone / Walter Bieri)

Of the 447 Zurich streets named after famous people, only 54 are named after women, Unia said. This was a typical sign of how women are less present in public than men. The southwestern city of Sion also saw name changes for street signs, including one dedicated to the new defence minister Viola Amherd.

In the capital Bern, around 100 people took part in a rally near the parliament building under the slogan “Solidarity for women – Solidarity among women”.

Unions also used the day to call attention to the nationwide Women’s Strike on June 14. Although equality is anchored in the constitution, women still earl less than men, they said.

In Lausanne in the early evening around 1,500 gathered for a protest, a third of which were men, and in Geneva around 200 women demonstrated.

3 female ministers

In the parliament building itself, 30 young women were meeting the three female cabinet ministers: Amherd, Simonetta Sommaruga (environment) and Karin Keller-Sutter (justice).

Women still do not hold as many important positions as men in Switzerland, whether in business or in science, a government statement saidexternal link.

+ Read more about how women are struggling in the upper echelons of research

Politics is not much better, it added. During the meeting, the ministers were able to give their personal experiences as politicians.  They were in turn impressed by the interest and passion of the young women, the statement added. They see this as a positive signal for the election year 2019, in which they are hoping for stronger female participation.

Other initiatives

Elsewhere, the feminist peace organisation cfd launched an appealexternal link against the abuse of women and girls online.  

Signatures were also gatheredexternal link for “Bloody Unfair – reduce the tampon tax”, which is calling for a lower VAT on feminine hygiene products (currently taxed at 7.7%, could be reduced to 2.5%).

On an international level, Switzerland was ranked the best country for women's rights, by an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reportexternal link on Friday. It gave Switzerland a "very low" gender discrimination score of 8.1 out of 100 for having robust laws and social norms that addressed those issues.


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