Skevi Koukouma: The 8th March is not a fiesta. It is a struggle – a daily and all-year struggle! A class and organized struggle.


Address by the General Secretary of the progressive women’s movement of POGO Skevi Koukouma to the mass demonstration for International Women’s Day (Saturday, 10th March, 2018, Nicosia)


Today, we are DEMONSTRATING for gender equality, social justice, women’s rights and working women. Today we are demonstrating and honoring 8th March with struggles because we don’t exchange compliments and send “all the best” greetings on Women’s Day, but instead we pledge to wage more struggles! Today, we are demonstrating and sending out a clear message to the government and the State, but also in every direction.

Don’t dish out any wishes and compliments to the female sex. Tell us – it is indeed preferable – if you are prepared and ready to confront employers and big business interests so that we can at long last achieve equal pay, an increase in maternity leave, the implementation of a paid parental leave scheme, and improvements in paternity leave.

Don’t tell us how much you respect and appreciate women and their role in society. Tell us who you are and if you’re ready to resist the conservatism and interventions of the Archbishop and the Church, who even want to decide about issues related to women’s bodies as well.

Don’t congratulate us on the multiple roles women fulfill in society. Tell us whether you will continue to implement your economic policy that is dismantling the welfare state, abolishing working people’s gains and shrinking social infrastructures that provide support to families. You told us blatantly the day before yesterday that it is NOT the state’s job to operate state-owned infrastructures to support working families. And if it is not the responsibility of the state then whose responsibility is it then – the Church’s?

This is why we are demonstrating dear friends because this was the message conveyed by the uprising of New York women workers in March 1857.

  • Because gender equality is still a goal, it still remains a vision and not a reality.
  • Because, even today, it’s much more difficult for Cypriot women to find work who are generally paid less.
  • Because in dozens of workplaces employers are dismissing or avoid hiring women who are pregnant or women who are old enough to have children because they want to avoid paying maternity leave. Because in the tarnished European Union of “progress and rights”, the European Court of Justice just two weeks ago decided to permit the dismissal of pregnant women workers in the context of group/mass redundancies.
  • Because it took three whole years of pressure and effort against the Church’s interventions to manage to start a debate in Parliament on the draft Bill tabled by AKEL and POGO on the modernization of legislation on abortion and the safeguarding of the right of women to decide about their body.
  • Because thousands of single-parent families across Cyprus are experiencing the risk of poverty and social exclusion. And because the Archbishop’s Palace, in its well-known circular, defames and marks out single mothers as “problematic situations,” instead of showing full respect to women who raise their children by themselves and with so many difficulties.
  • Because in the Cyprus of supposed growth and progress, maternity leave is granted only for 18 weeks, so new mothers are being forced to leave their babies after only a few months to get back to work.
  • Because even in 2018 we are forced to table specific legislation to protect a mother who will breastfeed in a public place.
  • Because violence against women continues to be the most widespread and most repugnant form of female oppression, which isn’t just another criminal offence, but represents an expression of deeply rooted and established relations of power between the two sexes.
  • Because the Anastasiades government has curbed the power of the Istanbul Convention on Violence against Women for financial reasons, given that it has exempted Cyprus from an essential provision of this Convention, namely that the state should be legally accountable when it has proven to have neglected to protect women victims of violence.
  • Because we demand that Cyprus finally has a fully staffed Breast Cancer Centre for women going through the ordeal of cancer.
  • Because we demand all our country’s gynecological departments be adequately staffed so that in 21st century Cyprus – when a woman who just a few years ago lost her life because there wasn’t a gynecologist in her area – this won’t happen again.

No one doubts that through their struggles, the women of Cyprus and the people, have taken many steps forward. We have faced many obstacles. Women’s lives and opportunities today may be far better than in the previous decades, but our goal doesn’t end with some improvements within the framework of a deeply unfair system. Our goal is nothing less than GENDER EQUALITY and DIGNITY, everything that women are entitled to.

We must be honest towards society and the history of the women’s movement both in Cyprus and elsewhere. No matter how many initiatives may be taken for initiating debates, submitting petitions/memos and promoting legislations; no matter how much pressure is exerted through conferences and lectures; no matter how strong our positions are, how much we may react through Social Media, nothing can be compared to the mass, militant and organized struggle of the Women’s Movement itself in the streets of struggle, always together with the class-orientated trade union movement.

The only way to move forward is through mass struggle in the streets! The path of struggle for social justice, parity and for dignity in life and work. And there is no other alternative to this path – the path of organization, demonstrations, marches, strikes and resistance – for all those who are do not compromise with the current political, social and economic situation in our country.

At the same time, we must never cease thinking that at the same time as us, in dozens of other countries throughout the world millions of women are struggling in conditions more difficult than ours. And I would like on behalf of all of us here today to send a message of international solidarity to all the women of the world; to all those women living in countries where women don’t have the right to be educated, work, move freely and wear the clothes they want; to all those women who are burned alive or stoned to death for so-called “honor” crimes; to all those girls who are forced to marry in childhood; to those girls victims of genital mutilation; to the millions of women chained in the dungeons of trafficking; to the women who are being uprooted in their own homelands because of ongoing wars and imperialist interventions.

We are conveying a message of struggle and solidarity with all of these women because the 8th March is at the same time also conveys a universal and deeply internationalist message.

The 8th March was not and will NEVER become a fiesta. The 8th March is a struggle – a daily and all-year struggle! A class and organized struggle. A struggle that is worth waging and a struggle we shall win!

That’s why we are and will stand firm until we gain the life we ​​deserve because no one will ever grant us parity without struggle. We will gain parity through struggles. We continue on our militant path, with conviction and determination, with persistence and a fighting spirit. Together with the Women’s Movement of POGO and the class-based trade union movement of PEO.

Together and united with everyone who is struggling in a mass, collective and militant way.

Long live the 8th March!

Long live gender equality!