Women march in Swiss cities

Women in Switzerland held mass rallies in several cities, as part of International Women's Day celebrations on Wednesday. In Geneva, over 1,500 gathered to protest against poverty and violence against women.

This content was published on March 8, 2000 - 00:33

Women in Switzerland held mass rallies in several cities, as part of International Women's Day celebrations on Wednesday. In Geneva, over 1,500 gathered to protest against poverty and violence against women.
Other simultaneous rallies included - Berne, Biel and Zurich and Neuchatel.

March 8 was International Women's Day and around 3,700 organisations in over 140 countries are thought to have taken part in marches. The idea for the International Women's Day March 2000 originated in Quebec during a demonstration against poverty in 1995.

The womens' march in Geneva began in front of the Palais des Nations, alongside militant groups representing the interests of Kurds, Afghans and Eritreans.

Regula Ernst-Schneebeli, the president of the Community of Women's Organisations in Switzerland (ARGEF), said they wanted to foster a new social contract between the sexes so that men and women have equal chances in society.

She said the women's movement has been very successful this century, in spite of a number of setbacks. But the political will for change had been missing and Switzerland needed a social model to help women combine a career with a family.

Almost a quarter of all working women in Switzerland take home less than SFr3000 franks a month. More and more women with children in Switzerland do not go back to work full time.

Gabriela Winkler, the managing director of ARGEF, says "the mental barriers for combining work and motherhood are very high."

Women's groups say combining a career with motherhood varies in difficulty across Switzerland. In Italian-speaking Ticino, children can go to nursery school at the age of three as opposed to five elsewhere in the country. There are also day schools and day centres which look after children for up to seven hours.

ARGEF argues that a partial solution for getting mothers back to work would be a well structured system of child care and starting children in nursery and primary schools earlier. "Anything else would be a call for childlessness under the name of equality," says Winkler.

Education in Switzerland is a cantonal matter and coordination is both difficult and slow. Winker says this is a waste of resources and does not allow Switzerland to exploit its intellectual potential.

"Our social system is far behind the reality," she adds. "We feel it is essential for the future that we offer the opportunity to combine both a career and a family and to offer the opportunity to young children to develop their potential."

International Women's Day was founded by an international conference of socialist women in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, in 1910.

It fell into obscurity for many years, but was resurrected in 1975 during the United Nation's International Year of the Woman.

From staff and wire reports

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