At about 6 pm, hundreds of women began to gather in the Chacarita neighborhood of Buenos Aires to prepare for actions on March 8 – International Women’s Day. The call was made by the Ni Una Menos collective, which organizes assemblies to plan women’s rights actions. The number of people in attendance exceeded all expectations and the assembly had to be transferred to an outdoor venue so that all the women could take part in the debate.
Many different organizations attended the meeting, including trans women’s groups, the Network of Women with HIV, the Network for Disability Rights, Black women’s associations, and sex workers’ associations.
The Argentinean women’s movement has been very active in the past few years, starting with the massive Ni Una Menos protests that rocked the nation starting in 2015. That year, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest; several work stoppages took place. Since then, Ni Una Menos has organized a mass protest at least once a year. Last year, on March 8, hundreds of thousands protested and some sectors, such as teachers went on strike throughout the country.
This March 8 will take place in the midst of a new social and political scenario in Argentina. The right wing Macri government was weakened by the mass mobilizations that took place in December against pension reform and workers across the country have gained confidence in their own strength to confront further austerity.
Throughout the country, in places where workers are under attack and facing layoffs, the struggle and resistance has grown – from the sugar factories in the north to the health, education and public sectors workers in the city and province of Buenos Aires, to the Río Turbio miners in the south. The union leadership was forced to address the fact that workers all over the country are organizing and fighting against the government’s’ policies. As a result there is a discussion of a massive mobilization on February 22.
Women are the protagonists of this resistance and have been leading many of these workplace struggles. These working-class women who are currently in struggles in their workplaces kicked off the Ni Una Menos assembly. Cynthia Bernabitti was laid off from Hospital Posadas and is part of the Marrón workers’ organization. “They fired us by placing a sign on the door with a list of names. Some of the workers who have been laid off are pregnant, some are fighting cancer and they’re here, struggling with us, side by side,” she said. “It’s very important that we defend public health, because the lives of our children are at stake. We need each and every one of you to participate in the struggles that are taking place,” she added.
Other sectors who attended the meeting include workers from the National Institute of Industrial Technology who are struggling against more than 250 layoffs, workers from the auto parts factory Stockl who are organizing a women’s committee, and state workers who are fighting against layoffs.
Lorena Itabel, a state workers’ delegate at ATE (State Workers’ Association) in the Ministry of Finance and a member of Pan y Rosas, spoke to the crowd as the sun was setting: “At our job, we have already started to organize the strike with assemblies. Last year all our union wanted to do was organize a day of reflection for women. No way! This year we all have to strike, men and women together. We have to get organized and start preparing for that day right now.”
Celeste Murillo, a writer for La Izquierda Diario news network said, “These past few days we have seen women’s issues debated in the mass media, and this is a great tool in our fight for women’s rights, like the right to an abortion, which has been opposed by our governments for decades, with the support of the Catholic Church, which now has an Argentine Pope. Our task is to turn these debates into a mass movement to struggle for all of our rights. In this situation, all of these debates to have a goal, which to us involves preparing for a massive women’s strike, not just in Argentina, but in countries around the world.”
Katy Balaguer, one of the workers who fought against layoffs at the multinational Pepsico last year was greeted with warm applause. Addressing the crowd, she said “The conditions are in place for March 8 to become a real national strike. We know that in our workplaces, people are fed up and they want to fight. We have to demand that the unions call a strike and participate in the March 8 actions against layoffs and for women’s rights.”
As a result, the women of Pan y Rosas proposed assemblies in workplaces and schools in order to organize work stoppages and bring the discussion of women’s rights to the workplace.
As night fell, there were still dozens of women signed up to speak. They agreed to meet again on Friday, February 9 to continue the debate and take steps towards the organization of a great national strike on International Women’s Day. In the meantime, women in other parts of the world are also organizing work stoppages and mobilizations in places such as the Spanish State and the United States. It seems that like last year, this March 8 will have a massive international character.
Translated by Marisela Trevin