‘A Day Without a Woman' Brings March, School Closures

A single mother in Prince George's County said she was frustrated her daughter's classes were cancelled because so many staffers requested the day off

Women stayed home from work, wore red and joined rallies in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday for International Women's Day and the "A Day Without a Woman" boycott.

To demonstrate women's strength and impact, organizers of the Women's March on Washington called for women to take Wednesday off from paid and unpaid work and avoid spending money.

"We provide all this value and keep the system going and receive unequal benefits from it," boycott spokeswoman Cassady Findlay said.

Several schools in the D.C. area closed because so many staffers requested the day off. 

Before noon, a crowd marched from Freedom Plaza in downtown D.C. to the White House, holding signs and chanting "This is what democracy looks like." 

More than 20 Democratic women lawmakers walked out of the Capitol to speak to several hundred spectators who gathered. The lawmakers dressed in red, as did many of the people who cheered them on.

"We are resisting President Trump and congressional Republicans and letting them know we will not go back," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.).

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday and asked followers to join him in "honoring the critical role of women" in the U.S. and around the world.

A digital billboard attached to a truck was circling the Capitol. “We Stand With the Women Striking – Not the Sexual Predator in the White House," the sign said. The anti-sexism group UltraViolet said the truck will be driven near the Capitol, White House and Trump International Hotel from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Schools in Alexandria, Virginia, and Prince George's County, Maryland, were closed to students. Single mother Michelle Haney said she was frustrated to be informed Tuesday evening that her daughter's high school would be closed. 

"She should be in school today. She's losing education," she said. "I'm a woman and yet I've got to take my daughter to school with me. I didn't get the chance to take the day off. Why should they?"

The "A Day Without a Woman" demonstration led to school closures in our area. News4's Mark Segraves talked with a school board member and parent who questioned the school districts' decisions.

The White House said none of its female staffers skipped work in support of International Women's Day. Everyone has "shown up" and is working hard to advance Trump's agenda," spokesman Sean Spicer said.

At 3:30 p.m., organizations held a "Women Workers Rising" rally outside the U.S. Department of Labor. They called for pay equity and an end to workplace violence and harassment.

"A Day Without a Woman" is the first major action by organizers since the nationwide marches held the day after Trump's inauguration. The marches drew millions of women into the streets in protest of misogyny, inequality and oppression.

Though it is unclear how many women will participate on Wednesday, thousands across the country signaled their support and interest online.

Organizers of the strike suggest those who are looking to participate take the day off from paid and unpaid labor, only spend money at small, women- and minority-owned businesses and wear red, a color they say represents revolutionary love and sacrifice. 

Wednesday's Day Without a Woman protest is closing schools and affecting businesses. News4's Shomari Stone reports.

The event coincides with the U.N.-designated International Women's Day, and organizers say they want to "stand with women around the globe" who supported their efforts Jan. 21 with similar protests in cities around the world.

Some DC-Area School Systems Cancel Classes

Public schools in Prince George's County and Alexandria were closed. 

As of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, about 1,700 teachers and 30 percent of the transportation staff had requested leave, the CEO of Prince George's County Schools said in a statement. 

"We cannot transport students and provide safe, productive learning environments without adequate staff. As a result, schools will be closed tomorrow for students," Dr. Kevin Maxwell said in a statement. "We apologize for the inconvenience this will surely cause to many families."

Local business owers and nonprofit groups are preparing for Wednesday’s “A Day Without A Woman.” Organizers of the one-day event are asking people to take the day off to spotlight the indispensable role women play in society. News4’s Meagan Fitzgerald reports.

More than 300 Alexandria school staffers requested the day off. 

Alexandria school district spokeswoman Helen Lloyd said Wednesday that staffers were within their rights to take leave. 

"Personal leave is taken for a personal reason, and so we tend not to judge that," she said.

"This is not a political decision," she added about schools being closed. 

Virginia Del. Bob Marshall sent a letter to the state attorney general asking him to determine whether the Alexandria schools superintendent acted properly in closing schools and whether the superintendent had the authority to deny the staffers' requests for leave.

In Fairfax County, public school board member Elizabeth Schultz spoke against the decision to close schools.

"I think it's 100 percent politically motivated. International Women's Day is something that has been celebrated for years, but this is the co-opting of a day that is meant to celebrate women. Instead, it is to supplant it with political motivation. For what end? What is it exactly these women are protesting?"

Also, Center City Public Charter Schools announced Tuesday that all six of its schools in D.C. will be closed "due to the large number of staff requests for time off to participate in A Day Without A Woman."

The schools are located in the neighborhoods of Brightwood, Capitol Hill, Congress Heights, Petworth, Shaw and Trinidad. 

The D.C., Fairfax County and Montgomery County school districts did not see a higher than usual number of staffers take a day off on Wednesday, representatives said. 

Local Businesses Bring Attention to 'A Day Without a Woman'

Washingtonian created a map of women-owned businesses in the area

Pizzeria Paradiso, which has locations in Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria, will serve only half its food and beer menus and will donate half of the day's proceeds to My Sister's Place and the National Organization for Women.

"The gender as a whole is not valued in the society equally to men," owner Ruth Gresser said about why she chose to participate.

Several other restaurants in the area are observing the day with discounted or free drinks for women. DCist has compiled a list.

Organizers Suggest Ways to Participate

Strike organizers suggest spending the day attending rallies and marches for International Women's Day by supporting or volunteering with local groups.

"While the most impactful way would be to take the day off, we realize that many women in our most vulnerable communities or whose jobs provide essential services, including reproductive health services, will not have the ability to join the strike," Fendlay said. "We strike for each of them, and we look forward to seeing the creative ways both men and women will showcase their support."

Organizers suggest men participate by calling to government and workplace decision-makers to extend equal pay and adequate paid family leave for women, that businesses close for the day or give female workers the day off, and that households that rely on caregivers, nannies and housekeepers grant a paid day off. 

Organizers also said the day acknowledges that transgender and gender nonconforming people, as well as women with disabilities, face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression and political targeting.

A similar protest took place across the country on Feb. 16 when people protested Trump's immigration policies in "A Day Without Immigrants." Many D.C. restaurants closed for the day to show the importance of immigrants in our daily lives.

The event coincides with the U.N.-designated International Women's Day. German airline Lufthansa had six all-female crews flying from several cities in the country to Berlin. Sweden's women's football team replaced the names on the back of their jerseys with tweets from Swedish women "who have struggled to gain ground in their respective field." Finland announced plans to create a $160,000 International Gender Equality Prize. Women also held rallies in Tokyo and Madrid.

The role of women in American society is significant. According to the U.S. Census, women make up more than 47 percent of the workforce and are dominant in professions including registered nurses, dental assistants, cashiers, accountants and pharmacists. They make up at least a third of physicians and surgeons, as well as lawyers and judges. Women also represent 55 percent of all college students.

Still, American women continue to be paid less than men, earning 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. The median income for women was $40,742 in 2015, compared with $51,212 for men, according to census data.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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