From the May-June 2023 issue of News & Letters
On March 4, over 2,000 women, some with young children, marched through London, organized by Million Women Rise (MWR). This organization of thousands is led by a core collective of Black women in the UK with regional subgroups. It is autonomous, run by volunteers on donations with no corporate funding or ties to political parties. It works with international women’s movements on a variety of projects. MWR states that “all oppression is connected.” Their goal is to end male violence in our lifetime.
Since 2007, the march has been held on a Saturday close to International Women’s Day, March 8. MWR stated, “The march is taking place at a time when despite government promises and commitments, state failings are causing women and girls to be subjected to violence, including violence perpetrated by police officers themselves.”
POLICE: PART OF THE PROBLEM
Demonstrations in recent years called attention to the high number of rapes and femicides in the UK. Metropolitan police officers are committing numerous violent crimes, one recently pleading guilty to 71 sexual offenses over two decades. Last year, officers strip-searched a 15-year-old Black girl at her school.
Speakers at the rally included family members of recently murdered women. Mina Smallman, mother of sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, spoke about the police’s culture of misogyny and racism. The two Black women were murdered in 2020 by a 19-year-old man influenced by violent online material. Two police officers were jailed for sharing photos of their bodies on a messaging app. Smallman said, “The slogan I would like us all to adopt is that ‘it’s time.’ We have had enough talk. We have had enough rhetoric. Now we are demanding that those in power put girls’ and women’s safety at the forefront.”
Marchers from countries including Eritrea, Iran, and Brazil promoted awareness of worldwide violence against women including domestic violence, state and non-state torture, and prostitution. Signs included: “Women are real victims in war. Stop violence in Congo,” “Together We Can End Male Violence,” “Women and Girls are Not for Sale,” “Women are Not the Problem,” “Stop Killing Us,” and “No 2 Slavery, Yes 2 Workers Rights.” UK activists stated women with insecure immigration status are unable to find protection from abusers.
Any woman can join MWR by signing their online Statement of Demands, aimed at governments and societies, domestic and worldwide. Demands include instituting public policies fighting racism and discrimination against women, recognizing “the links between domestic abuse, rape and commercial sexual exploitation.”
FEEL THE STRENGTH OF WOMEN
The march is for women and children. “On this particular day, we want women to come and feel the strength, the exhilaration and power of being with other women, to celebrate ourselves, our differences, our multiculturalness….One of the main aims is for any woman who has experienced, witnessed or been threatened by male violence to know that she is NOT ALONE and that, although male violence is often normalized, it is not normal.”
MWR lists ways men can support women at the march and in general, from donating to organizing group discussions. Men can also join the anti-violence campaigns We Can, My Strength, and White Ribbon.
Founding Coordinator Sabrina Qureshi stated, “Our power is together. While the tools of patriarchy seek to divide us and keep us in fear, MWR holds an alternative vision of revolutionary love and a world free of male violence…where no woman or girl is forgotten.” MWR emphasizes liberation for ALL women and optimism that concrete goals will be achieved. In the face of increasing violence, this mass movement is fighting to create a just society.