The World Marks International Women's Day

"Today, they are shaking the pillars of patriarchy"

Women across the world shouted their demands for equality, respect and empowerment Thursday to mark International Women's Day, with protesters in Spain launching a 24-hour strike and crowds of demonstrators filling the streets of Manila, Seoul, New Delhi and beyond.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world is at "a pivotal moment for women's rights," telling a star-studded event at U.N. headquarters that "for decades, women have been calling for the equality that is their right."

"Today, they are shaking the pillars of patriarchy," Gutteres said. "They are insisting on lasting change. This is what women and girls want. And that is what I want."

See how people around the world empowered women.

In California, a Los Angeles-area McDonald's temporarily flipped it's iconic golden arches from an "M" to a "W," and it was the chain's only U.S. location chosen to honor Women's Day with its logo. The upside-down arch also appeared Thursday on the fast-food giant's website and social media accounts, and packaging and worker uniforms had the flipped logo at about 100 of its 14,000 restaurants.

Activists and union members held a rally on International Womens Day in Chicago to recognize the inequalities women face daily and also social, economic, political and cultural accomplishments of women. 

In New York, women statues across the city were adorned in flowers as part of a celebration by clothing retailer Old Navy on International Women's Day.

Some 5.3 million people in Spain staged protests across the country against the wage gap and gender violence. In Barcelona, protesters disrupting traffic into the city center were pushed back by riot police. Strikes were especially noticeable in media, with prominent female anchors and journalists absent TV and radio programs. Later, after a full day of striking, thousands of women took over the central arteries of cities across Spain for evening marches.

International Women's Day is a public holiday in Russia, but opposition presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak staged a solo picket outside the lower house of the Russian parliament in Moscow to demand the resignation of a prominent lawmaker whom several female journalists accuse of sexual harassment.

In Italy, actress Asia Argento, who helped launch the #MeToo movement, united women against the power imbalance in favor of men with #WeToo. She marched later in Rome and participated in a strike to show the contributions of women at home and in the workplace.

Elsewhere in Italy, Catholic women challenged Pope Francis to give women a greater voice in Catholic Church decision-making, warning about how its all-male leadership refuses to change their entrenched second-class status.

On a lighter note, a leading French newspaper pointed out discrimination and the gender pay gap by upping its price for men. The left-leaning daily Liberation said that for one day only, men would pay 50 euro cents more than women, in a reflection of the 25 percent less that women in France are paid, on average.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, considered by many to be one of the world's most powerful women urged in a video message to continue the fight for equality, saying, "many women before us have made sacrifices and fought persistently so that women would have more rights ... but there's still a lot to do."

And Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle met female students in Birmingham studying science, technology, engineering and math as part of their celebrations marking Women's Day.

In China, students made light of a proposed constitutional amendment to scrap term limits for the country's president. One banner joked that a boyfriend's term should also have no limits, while another said, "A country cannot exist without a constitution, as we cannot exist without you!" But photos of the students' banners, like other content about the proposed amendment, were quickly censored on social media.

Hundreds of activists in pink and purple shirts protested in Manila against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, calling him among the worst violators of women's rights in Asia. Human rights groups have condemned Duterte's sexist remarks, including one in which he asked troops to shoot female communist rebels in the genitals.

In Afghanistan, hundreds of women, who would have been afraid to leave their homes during Taliban rule, gathered in the capital to commemorate the day— and to remind their leaders that plenty of work remains to be done to give Afghan woman a voice, ensure their education and protect them from increasing violence.

Hundreds of South Koreans, many wearing black and holding black #MeToo signs, rallied in central Seoul. South Korea's #MeToo movement has gained significant traction since January. The list of women who speak out is growing day by day.

In India, hundreds of women, including students, teachers and sex workers, marched through the capital to bring attention to domestic violence, sexual attacks and discrimination in jobs and wages.

"Unite against violence against women," one placard urged. "Man enough to say no to domestic abuse," said another. "My body, My choice."

In Pakistan, men sometimes assault women for refusing to marry them, and acid attacks are not uncommon. A victim of an acid attack joined hundreds of activists who rallied in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Thursday to denounce violence against women.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged men to stop physically abusing their wives. Domestic violence is common in Uganda, although victims rarely report perpetrators to the police for fear of being stigmatized or thrown out of their homes.

"If you want to fight, why don't you look for a fellow man and fight?" Museveni said, calling domestic abusers cowards.

Tim Sullivan in Delhi, Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal, and AP correspondents around the world contributed to this report.

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