This year’s women’s strike in Uruguay culminated with a centralized march in Montevideo on Wednesday, March 8. The march was only one of the results of the decentralized activities that took place over the past weeks.
Similarly to other countries in Latin America, International Working Women’s Day actions in Uruguay have built up momentum from 2015 onwards. The greatest impact was recorded in 2017, when approximately 300,000 people marched through the streets of Montevideo in support of women’s rights.
The decentralized approach to organizing actions on International Working Women’s Day enabled collectives to reach both rural and urban areas in the country. At the same time, the actions remained true to the ongoing demands of the feminist movement: the right to life, equality of rights and opportunities, equal distribution of work, including care work, freedom from violence, and the right to make decisions about motherhood.
Different networks, including the Intersocial feminist and the Coordinadora feminista, have made sure that actions are organized throughout the year to underline the problems that women continue to face every day, like macho violence and femicides. They also made a point of addressing the intersectional roots of the violence experienced every day by women who are also dissidents, migrants, peasants, ethnic or religious minorities.
Building upon past struggles
This year’s mobilization builds upon decades of feminist struggles in Uruguay, starting from the first protests in 1980. That period represented the sowing of the first seeds of the Plenario de Mujeres de Uruguay (PLEMUU), one of the first groups that began to develop the participation and empowerment of women in Uruguay.
In the midst of the military dictatorship, women who exercised different roles in society—students, workers, professionals, housewives, textile and domestic workers—began to come together with the idea of building a new society. In that society, women would be visible, with equal rights and opportunities, with a new role in society and families.
The collective proposed to the Ministry of the Interior to carry out the first Silent March along the main avenue of Montevideo. That year, the focal point of the manifestations was the overload of care tasks that women are shouldering and persisting inequities in labor rights.
Since 1985 and the downfall of the dictatorship, women’s collectives continued their struggles for equality in the workplace and decision-making spaces, addressing the gender pay gap, sexual and reproductive health rights for women and girls, and equalization of care. These collectives and groups have succeeded in collectivizing struggles and have served as a shield against the abuses and oppression of the patriarchal society in which women are immersed.
Year after year, every March 8, mobilizations took place throughout the country and led to the development of legislation that improved the position of women in society. These included the law against gender violence, which allowed greater legal support for women who suffer from violence or harassment at work. The law also led to improvements in the protection against domestic violence, which went from being a private matter to becoming a public struggle.
Women’s groups gave a tremendous contribution to the development of more progressive legislation in the field of sexual and reproductive health rights, including the right to abortion, maternity and breastfeeding leave, and the Comprehensive Law for Trans Persons. Their mobilizations supported the development of legislation that guarantees essential rights to people with disabilities, and feminist initiatives also worked hard to protect the rights of women of African descent.
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