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International Women’s Day March: Sun Sisterhood and Solidarity!

By Natalia Chan

Bushra Khanom blogs about International Women's Day as Maslaha hits the streets of London with a cast of hundreds.

Its 10am on a bright Tuesday morning and I am running off the packed DLR with best friend Sitara in tow…it’s the bicentenary of International Women’s Day and we do not want to be late! Women for Women International have organized a global campaign called ‘Join Women on the Bridge’ where women across the world are coming together on 40 bridges to make a stand. We want to be there at the Southbank to show solidarity for women in war-torn countries across the world, and to raise awareness about the issues that continue to affect women.

As I meet the ever inspirational team from Maslaha who have partnered with Women for Women International as well as my fellow activists from Young Muslim Voices there is a real buzz in the air and Borough Market seems to have come alive with excitement and anticipation. We have donned Maslaha’s trademark orange and are dressed in whatever orange attire we could find and are ready to start the march! Posters are being made, t-shirts being created and petitions signed, cameras clicking away like paparazzi, I get a hug from a stranger…this is a community coming together like no other!

Marching across the Embankment whilst chanting empowering slogans we feel elated when passers by encourage us and toot their horns in support, whilst we speak with like minded people to discuss how we can partner up to make ongoing change as we can be the active change makers of today.

As I march (and skip and jump) across the bridge, I think of Emily Pankhurst and the suffragettes and how much courage they had to stand up as a minority to make changes for generations to come, I felt how lucky I am to be able to be here and make a stand for women across the world without fear of persecution. As we all let go off the white peace balloon almost ritualistically and watch them float into the clear blue sky I think of my amazing mother who is the strongest living woman I know and I think of Sitara’s mother and I make prayer that she is watching us from the heavens above.

They say Feminism has lost touch with women today and it is a ‘Western’ concept that not all women can relate to but as I look around me we are astounded to see so many different women as well as men of all ages and backgrounds coming together for the message of inequality. We hold up our bold banner “Muslim Women for Muslim Women” I feel a sense of pride as onlookers take photos and look interestedly at us ‘multi diverse’ lot holding it and marching along steadfastly.

When we have finished the march there are speeches to come from some incredible women and we listen intently and cheer madly to the Afghani women, to the descendent of the Pankhursts and many more. I am humbled by the work done by these various organizations throughout the year to promote women’s empowerment and I feel deeply inspired to get more involved.  It is a sad fact that many women around the globe from Congo to Afganistan have been silenced and have no voice to share their pain however today’s stance shows the power of people to mobilize change. As Sitara and I leave the Southbank we enviously look at the newly made ‘women rock’ tshirt with a rock drawn on it (blimmin’ fantastic) and lament over our lack of art skills and I marvel at the kindness of the people we have met and the lengths they go to for others. I ponder what kind of achievements we can bring next year that promotes the ethics of gender equality.