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10 years of women's resistance to austerity across Europe – in pictures

Women across Europe have not been passive victims of austerity policies. From Paris, France to Nicosia, Cyprus, they have protested and organised for alternatives.

Brittney Ferreira
14 September 2018

Woman protesting cuts in the UK, 2016.

Woman protesting cuts in the UK, 2016. Photo: Ik Aldama/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

It’s harder to ignore women’s mobilisations today, when smartphone cameras are ubiquitous and anyone can post images online. Even so, stories of women’s resistance remain underreported, and while impacts of austerity on women may sometimes make headlines, those affected are often portrayed as helpless.

They’re not; across Europe, women have mobilised against harmful austerity policies enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Here are 10 images that capture 10 years of women’s resistance.

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Nicosia, 23 March 2013 - Confronted by mass bank closures, falling salaries and rising unemployment, women in Cyprus demonstrated in the country’s capital. The former offshore banking haven’s large financial sector and close financial ties with Athens left the country particularly vulnerable to economic collapse in the wake of the 2008 crash. The fallout included policies slashing social benefits, with tremendous impacts on women, particularly single mothers and domestic violence survivors. (Photo: Florian Schuh/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved).

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Paris, 9 June 2013 - By 2013, France had seen several rounds of austerity measures including cuts to public healthcare spending, public sector pay freezes and an increase in Value Added Tax on most goods and services, including books and public transportation. At a women’s march against austerity in Paris, women protested in the streets with signs saying “Austerity penalises women especially” and demanded rights for undocumented workers. (Photo: Messyasz Nicolas/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved).

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Athens, 18 June 2014 - 595 women cleaners were dismissed after their jobs were outsourced by the Ministry of Finance, a direct result of job cuts ordered by the European Union after Greece’s near-bankruptcy. Adopting a rubber glove as a symbol of their resistance, with two fingers forming a V for ‘victory’, the women organised protests in Athens and demonstrated outside ministry offices. As their story gathered public support, 32 of the cleaners travelled to Strasbourg to lobby MEPs. Their jobs were reinstated by the new Greek government. (Photo: Georgiou Nikolas/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved).

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London, 30 September 2014 - In 2013, 29 single mothers formed the Focus E15 campaign after they were evicted from a Newham hostel and deemed ‘intentionally homeless’ after refusing alternative accommodation far from their London-based communities. The next year, they occupied two vacant flats in Carpenters Estate. Outside, banners read: “These Homes Need People; These People Need Homes.” Developers eventually withdrew from the sale of the estate, which was then bought by an affordable housing charity. (Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Archive/PA Images. All rights reserved).

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London, 7 June 2016 - Members of feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut protested in front of the UK’s Parliament, where an art installation paying homage to the women’s suffrage movement was on display. Protesting women’s deaths from domestic violence, the group chanted “Dead women can’t vote” and set off smoke flares in the suffragette colours purple and green. Amid UK austerity policies, several domestic violence refuges have been forced to close, with specialist support services for women of colour disproportionately impacted by funding cuts. (Photo: Niku Gupta).

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London, 24 June 2017 - Women rallied in front of Downing Street as leaders of the Conservative and DUP parties gathered inside. Many were dressed in red, a symbol of the blood of those who have died as a result of cuts to public spending – and tragedies like the Grenfell tower fire as well as opposition to, or restrictions on, women’s reproductive rights and LGBTIQ+ equality. (Photo: Peter Marshall/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved).

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Madrid, 2 August 2017 - In response to falling wages and increasing workloads, hotel cleaners in Spain have mobilised under the name ‘Las Kellys’ to protest the outsourcing of their jobs to agencies. The group’s most recent campaign, which aims to promote hotels with satisfactory employment practices and shame those without, puts pressure on leading travel site TripAdvisor to highlight hotels that receive the Las Kellys seal of approval. (Photo: Diario de Madrid/Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 4.0).

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Rome, 24 August 2017 - Women occupied a small square in Rome, Italy, after they were forcefully evicted from a building in the centre of the city. The building had housed about 800 people, most of whom were asylum seekers and refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia. The United Nations' refugee agency voiced “deep concern” as hundreds were left sleeping on the street. An associate director from the NGO Human Rights Watch urged authorities to provide alternative accommodation. (Photo: Christian Minelli/NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved).

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Barcelona, 8 March 2018 - Thousands of women took to Barcelona’s streets on International Women’s Day to protest precarious employment conditions alongside other women’s rights issues. In response to rapidly rising unemployment post-2008, and EU austerity requirements, the Spanish government passed a series of increasingly flexible labour laws with the stated aim of facilitating job creation. Particularly controversial reforms have included: the deregulation of firing procedures, the promotion of temporary employment contracts and a reduction in young workers’ rights under training contracts. (Photo: Ramon Costa/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved).

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Athens, 31 May 2018 - Widows protested outside of Greece’s highest administrative court, where judges had debated the constitutionality of the government’s most recent course of pension cuts. Their banner read “NO to the abolition of pensions for widows under 55,” condemning new legislation that would reduce pensions for widows under 55 years of age and scrap them entirely for those below 52. The reforms, due to take effect in 2019, were enacted in order to comply with international bailout demands. (Photo: Robert Geiss/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved).

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