How a harsh Polish abortion bill sparked women’s strikes around the world

“In my flat, headquarters were set up”, said Marta. “I took time off. We created a group of administrators who day and night watched over the safety of the event. We were going to sleep at 4am and getting up at 7am. We were eating takeaways, some pizzas. And when we were struggling, we would sing folk songs at night, and Paulina would bring some wine. We vented these chants to a fanpage called Chór Wkurwionych Kobiet (translated literally: The Pissed off Women’s Choir).”

The structure was fluid, the pot was kept boiling. There was no steering committee, no leader who would decide how and what to do. Every town would decide for itself. The women on the ground knew best who they wanted or didn’t want to collaborate with, and why. They knew the territory and were aware of who they could trust.

The unifying factors were our shared objective, to stop the bill, as well as the logo, hashtag and Facebook group. After a few days of heated discussions, Marta summed up the Black Monday plans: “October 3: we’re taking leave on demand – we’re taking a day off for childcare – we’re not going to university – we’re taking unpaid leave – using any other legal option – we’re not going to work or university!”

One organiser suggested you could donate blood. That way you would be entitled to a day off, and you do a good deed too. We didn’t even discuss the option of working with trade unions which, historically and legally, are responsible for organising strikes, because the largest union, Solidarność, is under the government’s control.

Besides, it wouldn’t have been possible to sort out all the required formalities in time. Meanwhile, we were contacted by many companies. Some bosses gave time off to women working in public institutions, coffee shops, schools, universities, theatres, accounting firms, foundations, newspapers, designer studios, shops, nurseries, publishing houses, museums. And if someone wasn’t able to take part in the strike, they could put up a poster, dress in black, and refuse to perform household work.

Reverberating around the world

I found out about the first Argentine strike, which was scheduled for 19 October 2016, two weeks after the Polish one, as I had personal contacts in Argentina, where I spent many years working on the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz’s biography. I learnt that there was a dynamically growing feminist movement called Ni Una Menos (“not one less”), which was launched in outrage over cases of femicide in the country. In Poland, this information hadn’t really been picked up by the media.

I decided to write about it for the Polish press, so that Polish women could see that they were not alone, and that what they’d done reverberated throughout the world. So that they realised that they are making history. On Facebook, I contacted Nadia Pérez from Rosario and Luxx Marina from Buenos Aires. Nadia was serious, focused and precise. Combative Luxx was also very factual. She worked as an IT professional, but she was also involved in radio journalism.

I built connections with activists in other countries, too, including Tatiana Suharieva from Russia, Hyelin Beng and Yewon Moon from South Korea. I began to understand that what’s happening with women’s rights has a global dimension. Italians, who also face high numbers of femicides, followed the Argentines and set up a movement modelled on theirs: Non Una Di Meno.

Until this point, I had never contemplated whether or not I was a feminist. It was not necessary for me to live. Each of us had her own story, but the 2016 bill that would punish women for having an abortion turned us all into feminists.

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Klementyna Suchanow | Radio Free (2022-05-25T20:05:02+00:00) » How a harsh Polish abortion bill sparked women’s strikes around the world. Retrieved from https://www.radiofree.org/2020/04/15/how-a-harsh-polish-abortion-bill-sparked-womens-strikes-around-the-world/.
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» How a harsh Polish abortion bill sparked women’s strikes around the world | Klementyna Suchanow | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2020/04/15/how-a-harsh-polish-abortion-bill-sparked-womens-strikes-around-the-world/ | 2022-05-25T20:05:02+00:00
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