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David smiling in front of an arch in Madrid

"Hoy Luchamos Por Todos" -Today We Fight For All

by David O'Keeffe Friday, March 23, 2018

Disclaimer: The Wisconsin School of Business encourages students to educate themselves about safety regarding large populated events. The UW-Madison International Safety and Security office advises the following:  If you are at a particular location and for some reason the area becomes congested with many other pedestrians, e.g.,  a large crowd of people forms that is not moving very quickly, depart the area as rapidly as possible even if that means abandoning or significantly changing your plans or itinerary.  Large-scale athletic or concert events should be avoided.  These venues are a lot of fun for travelers abroad, but they represent lucrative targets to violent groups.  If you attend a large event of this type, take careful mental note of how you would exit rapidly or where you might take cover if needed … this only takes a few seconds of your thoughts and could safe your life. For more information please see their resources.

Two girls on bicycles
I don't know why but these two High School students on their bikes seemed to perfectly capture the moment. They had the perfect mix on their faces of rebellion towards society and inspiration from the night and the strong women they were marching with... I asked to take a photo and pretty soon I had both of their phones as I took new profile pictures for them!

Thursday March 8th was International Women's Day! While there were marches all over the world, Spain received international spotlight for their national M8 women's strike. BBC reported over 5.3 million women participated in a one day strike! A staggering number for a country with 23 million women. With full support from major unions, one third of the female workforce, in both the public and private sector, did not show up to work. Female teachers cancelled classes, public transportation was limited all day, women were encouraged not to spend any money as consumers. In effect, they showed Spain the importance of Women to both our workforce and society.

Then came Thursday night! Cities all over Spain held marches, none however would equal the power and numbers of the Spanish capital. Thousands met at Atoche Station before the 3k march to Plaza de España! I was a little late to the party but threw on a purple shirt, put some purple lipstick on my face, and ran down with my camera and a few friends to join the march. While I would love to put into words the power and significance of the event, I'm afraid I would not do it justice and frankly... it is not my story to tell. Instead I will let the women of Spain, through my photos (and captions), do the talking!

A group of people with purple balloons
A young boy on his Mom's shoulders, learning firsthand from a young age how to respect women, appreciate equality, and the power of democracy

The march started at 7 pm at Atocha Train station. I arrived 1 hour into the march and there were still over 20,000 people waiting to start, with more joining late by the minute! We walked and joined in the Spanish chants that we could understand. Even on the widest road in Madrid, there were so many people the march was slow!

A road with a crowd
After 3 hours the front of the March reaches Plaza de EspaƄa

After an hour into the march I took side roads to the destination, Plaza de España! I got there early  to get a good view! At 10, three hours after starting, the front of the march reached the stage. Led by women on strike from the metro holding hands!

Protestors with signs saying real men are feminists

Women holding a sign that says "I am your mother" with Darth Vader pictured

A women with a sign saying " If you are not here with us, it is war"
Her sign reads "For those who are not here with us, #ItIsWar"

Slowly the rest of the march made it to the square, until at 12 am (5 hours after the start) the end of the march brought the best part of the night! Over 100 hundred women formed a drum circle in the street!!! With leaders and dancers in the middle, and the remaining couple thousand participants, the party continued!

Women dancing in a drum circle

Pure emotion. 6 hours into the March and the leaders are still going strong!

By 1 am the party was officially over and my camera battery was on critical! The drummers and organizers congratulated each other. With the months of preparation and a tiring day, they showed on their faces the satisfying combination of exhaustion and achievement. Together, the women of Spain, had accomplished their goal!

A protest drum next to a crowd
Relaxing after the march

Because while some may be walking backwards... slowly, steadily, and unwaveringly, the rest of society moves forward. You can fight it, you can join it, or you can stand idly by... but with or without you these women will march on towards equality

Girls with protest signs saying, if they tell me to shut up, I will speak even louder

I'll be proud to tell my daughter which side I was on.

 

David O’Keeffe is a junior studying international business, management, and entrepreneurship. To follow his personal blog visit: davidokeeffetravels.wordpress.com