WVoN at Million Women Rise march, London 2012
Saturday saw the annual Million Women Rise (MWR) march in London which I attended, along with another WVoN co-editor, Heather Kennedy.
The MWR coalition is made up of a diverse group of individual women and representatives from the voluntary and community sector outraged by the continued daily, hourly, minute-by-minute individual and institutionalised male violence against women worldwide.
At first, it looked like I wasn’t going to make it due my taxi turning up late, a recalcitrant rail ticket machine, and then losing my way from Euston to Bond Street to meet Heather.
However, we made it to the gathering point in Orchard Street in plenty of time and joined a growing group of women formed into orderly lines by a police cordon.
One of the officers on duty told me that he witnessed male violence against women first-hand as part of his job, his wife was a rape counsellor and they both felt that ‘this march was something that needed to happen.’
When asked why she was there, Tina said:
I think it will help the women here to feel supported and all women and men who know someone who has been there. However the march gets publicised, it will help them to know that they are not alone, that there is a way out and an alternative. Even if there was only 20 people here, it would still be effective just for those people.
Another woman, Amanda, had turned up by herself to support women against male violence. Although her first march in London, she had marched against apartheid in South Africa.
Ann, a victim of domestic violence. was there to support the women’s shelter that had helped her through her own experience.
For Jackie, attending the march was about showing solidarity with all the women and children who have been affected by male violence. She hoped that it would make violent men pause for thought:
Hopefully men who are guilty of some of this may think twice, and women will see the banners and get information from them.
Walking from Orchard Street to Trafalgar Square was an inspiration. There were thousands of women– young, old, black, white, abled/non-abled bodied; mothers with young babies, activist groups, voluntary organisations, feminist networks – all with banners flapping in the breeze, accompanied by an excellent female steel band.
Arriving at Trafalgar Square, we were treated to a combination of rousing speeches from different organisations, interspersed with dancing and singing by children and adults.
For me, the most notable speeches were from a charity that supports children who have experienced domestic violence; Object, which campaigns against the objectification of women in the media and porn industry; the international Coalition of Resistance against privatisation, and Women in Black, an organisation that stages a silent one-hour anti-war protest every Wednesday by the statue of Edith Cavell in London.
However, for me, the most stirring speech was from a 20 year old black student:
Today I march for every single woman who has ever been hurt, been beaten, been bruised, told that she would never accomplish anything.
I march for women who have been gang raped, failed by the justice system.
I stand in solidarity with sisters all over the globe. Your struggle is my struggle – sisters, you can never be selective about your activism, you can never be selective about your fight, my struggle is your struggle.
I stand before you a 20 year old young woman, a student, and in this society I am still told that my dreams must be limited, my achievements must be limited, my aspirations can only go so far – all because I am a woman.
I am told what jobs I can and cannot do and I am told by a male dominated society what I should wear.
We must continue to mobilise and organise and educate because right this minute somewhere – in the UK or around the world – a woman is being beaten, abused, raped.
We need to demonstrate to her that we are here – she is not on her own.
My sisters, never be afraid to be vocal, let us shout about the issues affecting women, let us be vocal about FGM, about forced marriage and honour killings.
Let us fight back against this government, which is cutting services for women and children – for when they fight, we fight back.
Young sisters I urge you not to look at the media and magazines which portray sexualised and false images of women – your role models are here today – every single women here today is a role model.
You all – every sister, mother, daughter – paved the way for someone like me today to speak and I deeply thank you for that.
Collectively coming together and sharing the same vision, we will end male violence against women.
Time, justice and the forces of history are on our side.