The World March of Women arrives in Switzerland on Friday with a charter calling for freedom, equality, solidarity, justice and peace across the globe.This content was published on June 9, 2005 - 20:14
The relay, which began in Brazil on March 8, will take in more than 50 countries over a seven-month period.
It is only the second time the event has been held. The first march was in 2000.
Switzerland is the next stop after Bulgaria. From here the charter will pass to Spain on June 14.
"Passing on the charter symbolises the political demands and principles that are shared by women’s movements in different countries and regions. It also symbolises the solidarity between women’s groups which support each other’s local concerns," the Swiss organisers said in a statement.
The global journey will culminate on October 17 – International Day of Poverty - in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world.
The main aim is to draw attention to the problems of poverty and violence against women.
Women’s groups are calling on Switzerland as one of the world’s richest nations to write off the debts of the poorest countries.
They are also focusing on the concerns of women in Switzerland – freedom from physical, mental and sexual abuse, adequate pensions and child benefits, and pay equality with men.
Other demands include a clampdown on tax evasion and the flight of capital and, controversially, the lifting of Switzerland’s cherished banking secrecy.
A caravan will travel around the country, taking information about the world march and the charter to more than 20 towns.
Meanwhile local groups will be staging events, ranging from exhibitions and films to buffets and barbecues. There will also be talks given by politicians, union activists and defenders of women’s rights.
This year’s global action follows on from the first World March of Women held in the millennium year.
"It’s become bigger than we thought when we started out," said Michelle Spieler of the Swiss coordination team.
"In 2000 it was a very big thing and a unique event that took a lot of work over eight months. So we were really happy to see that women were ready to make such an effort again, to continue the struggle," she told swissinfo.
The text of the Women’s Global Charter for Humanity calls on women and men, and all oppressed peoples and groups "to proclaim their power to transform the world and radically change social structures with a view to developing relationships based on equality, peace, freedom, solidarity and justice".
It calls on social movements to take action to promote these values and challenges political decision-makers to adopt the measures necessary for their implementation.
The World March of Women is a global feminist action network grouping 5,000 women’s associations in 163 countries and territories, all of which campaign for an end to poverty and violence against women.
Spieler stressed that the action was not just about what was happening in other countries, but was also "linked with the local situation in Switzerland".
"During question time in parliament on June 14 we will ask the government very specific questions about what is currently happening concerning several subjects, like violence against women," she said.
The Swiss leg of the march begins in Basel and ends in Geneva.
swissinfo, Morven Mclean
The Women’s Global Charter for Humanity has five basic demands: equality, freedom, solidarity, justice and peace.
The second World March of Women began in Brazil on March 8, 2005. It is scheduled to end in Burkina Faso on October 17 – International Day of Poverty.
The first march was held in 2000.
The Charter will be brought to Basel on June 10 and will leave Geneva for Spain on June 14.