Feminist activists and women across the globe sent a powerful message on the 8th of March and demonstrated that it is time to put politics back into International Women’s Day.

As the International Women’s Day flag flew over Houses of Parliament in London, women calling for social justice and gender equality marched on the streets of cities in Spain, Ireland, South Korea, Myanmar, India, France, the Philippines…

The biggest protest took place in Spain, where the first national women’s strike gathered more than 5 million supporters in the 24-hour strike, backed by 10 unions and some of Spain’s most influential female politicians, including Madrid’s mayor, Manuela Carmena, and the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau.

Under the slogan “If we stop, the world stops”, protesters assembled in 120 different cities including Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Pamplona and Seville to raise awareness of sexist oppression, exploitation and violence. In their statement they criticized the pay gap and unequal working conditions.

The notable banners read: “It is not an isolated case, it’s called patriarchy”, “Those who don’t move can’t hear the sound of their chains”, “I think, therefore I annoy,” and “There are no women on my literature class syllabus.”

In Ireland, the 8th of March was marked by the government’s agreement on the wording for the historic abortion referendum bill. At a national referendum to be held in May, voters will be asked if they want to repeal the eighth amendment, which gives unborn foetuses and pregnant women an equal right to life. Currently, Irish law allows abortion only when the life of the mother is at risk, making Ireland one of the few countries in the EU which still uphold abortion ban.

Hundreds of South Koreans, holding #MeToo signs, and chanting “We are with you”, and “You are not alone”, rallied in central Seoul. The #MeToo movement has gained significant momentum in South Korea since January when a female prosecutor shared her difficult story about workplace mistreatment and sexual misconduct, inspiring other women to speak openly about sexual harassment.

Protesters in France called for supporters to put down their tools at 3:40 PM in solidarity with their female colleagues, who earn 24% less than male workers. The Eiffel Tower was lit up with the hashtag and colours of #NowWeAct campaign, calling for legal protection of female victims of violence.

Hundreds of activists dressed in purple and pink protested in central Manila against the dictatorship of the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, decrying women’s rights violations in the Philippines.

In India, women’s marches were held in Delhi, Karachi and Kolkata, with hundreds of women marching against sexual attacks, discrimination in jobs and wages and domestic violence.

Women also took to the streets in Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Turkey, and many other countries all over the world.

There is much to be done for gender equality, but the energetic atmosphere of this year’s 8th March sent an optimistic message to all women struggling for equality and recognition.