international women's day 2011

‘We are the ones we’ve been waiting for’

Posted on: 31 March 2011

This was just one of the exhilarating statements made at yesterday’s Million Women Rise march through central London. I came away feeling incredibly inspired; the speakers’ convinced me that I was part of a broader feminist movement, a global network of activists fighting for change. Women from London to Lahore are refusing to compromise, we are worth more than what the world offers us. One of the speakers asked us to believe that ‘we are the ones we’ve been waiting for’, the women who can bring about the changes in our political, cultural and social life that we both need and deserve.

This was the second time I’d attended Million Women Rise and I was surprised again by the range of reactions from bystanders. Passersby laugh, they take photos, they clap, they scowl, they jeer. The general public seem to regard the march as a bizarre spectacle, perhaps because all the participants are women. I’ve been on Reclaim The Night demos before where men have heckled and verbally abused us, but thankfully I saw none of this yesterday, although such behaviour only strengthens my resolve. When men respond to an anti-violence against women march with violence against women, you don’t need any further proof that something in society’s gone seriously wrong.

The mood yesterday was much lighter though. The demo began at Hyde Park Corner, continuing down Bond Street, Oxford Street and passing by Regent’s Street before ending at Trafalgar Square. Amazing drumming accompanied our protest, as well as some enthusiastic chanting (‘What do we want? Safer streets! When do we want them? Now!’ was a favourite)

Once we got to Trafalgar Square we had our spirits raised (it was pretty cold by this point!) by Maman Michelle Springer-Benjamin amongst others. I was also thrilled to be given some lovely biscuits by some kind and caring members of RASAC, and a free copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin as part of World Book Night courtesy of the lovely folk at For Book’s Sake.

However, even without the food and the freebies it would have been an incredibly worthwhile experience. The banners I saw women waving from services active across the UK reminded me just how much we have to lose in this recession as the cuts begin to bite. Sadly there seemed to be little or no representation from the major political parties- maybe there were some Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs in attendance but I didn’t see them. The march’s message- the call for an end of male violence against women- should unite women across the political spectrum. Perhaps even more worryingly the Labour Party held it’s celebration of International Women’s Day on the same day as the march; either they’re unaware of MWR or they’ve failed to understand the importance of MWR as a show of solidarity for the women’s movement.

Let’s hope that next year we see this change. As MWR so neatly put it: ‘Unity is strength; the voices of many are louder together than a single voice.’


Pictures and videos of MWR

red women's symbold with continents superimposed repeatd 5 times

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