Million Women Rise (MWR) organises an annual, women-only, march in the West End of London close to International Women’s Day, with the slogan, “Together we can end male violence against women and girls”.
Migrant and BME women play a prominent role. The first march was in 2008; the sixth march in 2013 attracted around 1,000, down on previous years.
Explaining why the march is women-only, MWR says:
“Women have been socially, culturally and economically conditioned to defer to men, to take our lead from men, to behave in ways approved of by men. 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, to sing, shout and chant at the top of our voices, in all our diversity, to demonstrate however we want because we’re women in the company of other women.”
MWR was founded by Sabrina Qureshi, a worker with the Women and Girls Network (WGN), a counselling service for women victims of male violence.
Qureshi says: “We may not have the physical presence of a million women on the march, but the name represents the millions of women who are with us in spirit or who want to be with us but can’t.”
MWR believes that educating men and boys to respect women is the way to end male violence against women; they do not believe that males are innately violent. It supports the work of the White Ribbon Campaign: “Men working to end male violence against women.”
Qureshi: “I have seen women who have been beaten beyond recognition yet, through the trappings of poverty, have still had to return to their partners. Last month a trafficked woman from eastern Europe was sold by a pimp over a cup of coffee at Heathrow Airport. She was just seen as a commodity, like so many of us. Yet I believe, I truly, solidly believe that we could put an end to male violence against women in my life time. We just have to be united in our aim and active together.”
MWR is supported by several women’s and other organisations who agree with its demands [www.millionwomenrise.
• To acknowledge the continued discrimination faced by all women, the additional discrimination faced by Black women and women from other minority groups, and reflect this in all public policy in the UK and internationally.
• For the adoption of a broad definition of violence against women, which makes the links between domestic abuse, rape and commercial sexual exploitation.
• To pledge support and resources to the women’s not-for-profit sector which is at the forefront of supporting survivors of discrimination, abuse and violence. Women’s services are essential to a woman’s healing and empowerment.
• To support the demands of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) and End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes International Forum (ECPAT) for the protection of children and to adopt a cross government strategy addressing all forms of violence against women.
• To abolish the “no recourse” requirement for abused women who have insecure immigration status.
• For all trafficked women and children to have a guaranteed minimum reflection period, specialist support and medical assistance, specialist safe houses for child and adult victims of trafficking and the right to a temporary residence permit if deemed at risk.
• To commit to changing public attitudes and behaviour towards women and girls through education initiatives and public awareness campaigns as set out by school programs such as Womankind Worldwide initiatives.
• To hold the media accountable for the continued misrepresentation, misappropriation and abuse of the female body throughout all forms of media.
• To recognise that global war and conflict perpetuates violence against women and to stop all wars now. Three out of four fatalities of war are women and children.
• For International Women’s Day to become a National Bank Holiday in the UK and Ireland in recognition of and to celebrate women’s achievements.
The next MWR march will be on 8 March 2014.