Our report on Million Women Rise

// 9 March 2008

So a million women did not literally descend on London for today’s International Women’s Day march. I am terrible at guessing crowd numbers, so I won’t even try. An estimated 4,000-5,000 women turned out to march through the streets of London this Saturday, to mark International Women’s Day. The Million Women Rise captured a powerful spirit of solidarity and protest against violence and discrimination faced by women worldwide. And considering the competing draws of Capital Woman and the other feminist and women’s events being held up and down the country, it was a powerful show of strength.

At first it was mostly interested tourists in those open-top buses (and one woman in a bathrobe cheering the marchers on from her balcony at the Dorchester!) But the march really got going when we wended our way into the busier bits of London: through Green Park, into Piccadilly Circus. Bus drivers tooted us (we hoped enthusiastically), both men and women waved from the sidelines. Some (men) had slightly sour expressions on their faces, but that was pretty much it when it comes to negative reactions. Although there were some… interesting observers parked nearby.

But then we turned the corner into Trafalgar Square, where the rally was due to take place:

If the march itself was joyful and affirming, the speeches were enough to get anyone fired up – covering everything from female genital mutilation to the rights of migrant women in the UK. Speakers touched on women’s rights in Zimbabwe and Palestine, and told stories of brutal violence here in England.

Catherine Redfern:

“If they tell you it’s impossible, you know you’re really on to something.”

So said one of the lovely speakers at the drizzly but passionate post-march rally; just one of the many comments and sights that so inspired me from yesterday. And it’s true. Can you imagine this happening ten years ago? If someone had said that there would be feminists marching in their thousands through London, we’d have been scoffed at and told that feminism was dead, that it was impossible. Well, yesterday proved that it certainly was anything but that. Massive respect must go to the organisers who did an incredible job in arranging such a stupendous event and encouraging so many different kinds of women from different backgrounds and ages onto the streets. It does feel like a new resurgence of feminism is coming up, doesn’t it? We are part of a movement! How *wonderful* to be able to be part of that. These are very exciting times. Events like yesterday give me so much hope for the future.

Only one thing pisses me off. Why the defening silence from the media, huh? What does it take to get a little tiny bit of attention for women’s issues? Was yesterday’s march even reported at all? I haven’t seen anything so far. It just goes to show what a lack of importance the mainstream media put on women’s issues. Pathetic. I know I said this after Reclaim the Night in November, but still. Grrr!

Anyway, I don’t want to bring down the general fuzzy feeling after such a wonderful event which will leave me with such great memories, including a moving reading of: Still I Rise

and the women on the stage bellowing:

What do we want?

An end to violence against women!

When do we want it?


At one point it seemed like that shout would go on for ever.

I thought I would post up a few links to just a few of the many organisations that I saw or heard about on the day so that readers can donate or support them in other ways.

ACTSA’s Dignity Period campaign

FORWARD UK (against Female Genital Mutilation)

Rape Crisis

Southall Black Sisters


Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp


Women Against Fundamentalism

Same time, same place, next year!

Same time, same place, next year!

Beautiful, brilliant, wonderful, moving. Well done.

This post will be updated as we collect our thoughts about the march, but in the mean time you can see more photos at the new F Word Flickr pool. Do check it out and post your own IWD and feminist photos! Also take a look at Alex Brew’s excellent photos from the march.

Links to other folks’ coverage of the march:

Penny Red

Cath Elliot – Comment is Free

Brand New Feminist

YouTube videos

Comments From You

lauren asrael // Posted 9 March 2008 at 6:25 am

This is fantastic!

I wish we had a march like this in the US.

I always feel like Europe is so far ahead of us, and this proves it.

Cheers to all of you!

Deborah McAlister // Posted 9 March 2008 at 10:34 am

The march was truly amazing, I was thrilled to see so many other Women marching, singing, drumming, dancing and shouting.

Some of the speeches brought tears to my eyes, and I noticed a fair few others in a similar state.

One Women,

One body,

One song,

One love.

Charlotte // Posted 9 March 2008 at 1:09 pm

Glad to hear the march went well. I live in Germany, but keep an eye on the UK papers. It seems that it was unreported in the Sunday press, which shocks me. If men or black people marched in London against violence and discrimination, it would have been reported. What I don’t understand is, why the silence?

Annika // Posted 9 March 2008 at 1:41 pm

I had an amazing time. Definately the best day and experience of my life by far!!! That atmosphere was fantastic, there was a real sense of unity and strength!! I noticed that some of the people watching joined in with us at some stage, which I thought was really good. All the different banners were beautiful, the different chants could be heard throughout, and the many different faces there to join as one, definately a magical day! There were thousands of women, surely! It was my first (of many) march, and a brilliant experience. I can’t find the words to explain the experience, or to sum up the day. I am so proud to be a woman, am proud that I was there to support a just cause, and I so proud that I experienced with all you wonderful women. Thank you!

Also, thanks to my BhamFems women, we had a great debut with our banner! http://www.flickr.com/photos/sizemore/2319429780/in/pool-thefword

Deborah McAlister // Posted 9 March 2008 at 4:37 pm

I’ve been wondering the same thing Charlotte, it was an inspiring day yet there’s nothing in the papers and nothing really on the BBC website. I think that’s a shame as it means those people who couldn’t make it to the march couldn’t share in the day.

Amy // Posted 9 March 2008 at 4:55 pm

The march was incredible and I was completely overcome by emotion at the sight of so many women, from so many backgrounds and ethnicities, joining together. It was fantastic!

Angry African on the Loose // Posted 9 March 2008 at 7:58 pm

Thank you for the march. It is needed everywhere. How do we celebrate the women of this world? We should start with our mothers. Those who make us (men and women) who we are today. My mother committed suicide, but I won’t let 5 minutes of madness define what I knew of her. But I still struggle to know who she really was. More on me and my mother on my blog at http://angryafrican.net/2008/03/08/an-accidental-activist-i-slept-while-my-mother-died/

Ah Khum Zhao // Posted 9 March 2008 at 11:24 pm

Thank you for posting this report up. I was frantically searching for coverage of this march – but nought!! Deeply disheartened and sick – but the fight must go on! It was definitely a day I was glad I took part in – see you – same time, same place, next year!

Mooska // Posted 10 March 2008 at 11:45 am

ONE newspaper covered it, ladies! I know because I wrote the report. Many newsagents stock the Morning Star, so you should be able to read about it there.

It was a fantastic day, and I’m planning to be back next year with as many of my friends and family as I can drag out. I was amazed by the unexpected feeling of real solidarity and power. It’s easy, going about my daily life, to imagine that apathy towards women’s rights is the norm, but being among so many committed campaigners was really inspiring.

Oh, and I wanted to draw people’s attention to the fact that Ealing Council, unbelievably, is about to kill off Southall Black Sisters by withdrawing their core funding, the b*stards. The Sisters are campaigning to try and stop this, so please support them.

meenakumari // Posted 10 March 2008 at 1:35 pm

Thanks for the report and the photographs. It was the most amazing march and rally of women that London has seen for years. The organisers are to be congratulated. Good that the Morning Star covered the event however perhaps next time, Mooska, please could we have more about violence against women in the coverage although equal pay is important too. Some media did publicise the march beforehand like BBC Kent and BBC Asian network but I agree it was not enough.

Maureen // Posted 10 March 2008 at 1:41 pm

Thank you for organising this march, it was an oppertunity to see how many strong and committed women groups stand together for all. As a member of Unison it was an honour to be part of this day. With so much support and such a strong message from the amazing speakers, it is a disappointment to find little or no national publicity for our efforts. I will be marching again.

Sarah // Posted 10 March 2008 at 4:21 pm

I am currently working for a magazine in London and I was proud to be the one who advertised this event on the magazine’s website. I found those words about achieving the impossible very inspiring too :-)

Michelle // Posted 10 March 2008 at 4:51 pm

What was really good about MWR was the diversity of women who organised, took part in and spoke at the rally, really encouraging and a true sign of the strength of feminism today and the potential for sisterhood among different groups of women.

It was a truly inspiring day, full of positive woman-energy. If the mainstream press didn’t pick up on this time, they’ll have to eventually, as we get bigger and louder!

Publicansdecoy // Posted 10 March 2008 at 5:09 pm


Many congratulations to all involved for staging what appears ot have been a very successful event. Woudl anybody know if there are any plans to allow men to attend next year? If not, are there any plans for a mixed gender march or could anybody pointme towards some mixed gender projects I could lokto get more involved with? I strongly believe that men need to stand up and be counted on this issue too.

Angela Tristram (Ang) // Posted 10 March 2008 at 5:23 pm

a million thanks for this report and the wonderful pictures. I was unable to go to London due to celebrations at the ea Womens centre I attend. Next year I will be there and will add my voice to the thousands who marched. I bought and flicked through papers on Sunday-no reports; surfed the t.v. channels web pages no comments, no coverage that I could find. As women we owe it to our future generations of women to forever be vocal nd united. Ang

Awet Yohans // Posted 11 March 2008 at 12:20 pm

Million Women Rise 2008 was an incredible day! I was there, with my peers from FORWARD, to spread the word on Female Genital Mutilation which is a grave human rights violation! I gave a speech on the day (that’s me in the pink jacket and black hat) and I was so happy to see that people were really moved by the plight of girls and women who are at risk of mutilation. Some women even came up to me in tears after my speech – that is the power of words! Please, let us keep supporting each other to end gender-based violence and persecution.

debi // Posted 11 March 2008 at 2:12 pm

please click on this link to see my report on MWR


in solidarity….debi xxx

Grace // Posted 11 March 2008 at 4:48 pm

Did the speaker from the Lanc police hate crimes division speak in the end? They were noted on the MWR bill originally? I had to leave before the end due to getting the coach but would really have loved to hear what they have to say on hate crimes against women because gender and sex don’t seem to be related to hate crimes in anything I have read on the subject (and if you try to report a hate crime through crimestoppers there is no option relating to gender or sex).

Thanks for linking to my post, I only put it up this morning!

Helen G // Posted 11 March 2008 at 5:05 pm

Grace: Interesting to read your experience – mine was almost the opposite – when my phone was stolen recently, I had to report it to the police in order to be able to get the reference number required by the phone company. The nature of the theft involved what the police termed hate crime (on the basis of my gender), but which I hadn’t thought of as being such.

So I would be interested to hear more on the subject too.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 11 March 2008 at 6:03 pm

Publicansdecoy – The rally was held in Trafalagar square which was obviously open to everyone, after the march. Although I noticed a couple of male passersby acting disrespectfully in Trafalgar Square there were also some men there supporting the march.

The November Reclaim the Night rally, after the march, is also usually mixed.

There is a group based in London for feminist men but I don’t know if they have a website – maybe someone can post details.

debi // Posted 14 March 2008 at 9:53 am

the feminist activist forum is mixed gender feminist network check it out


link to pro-feminist men’s group


daniellanulty // Posted 17 March 2008 at 3:02 pm

hello all

i was with you all at london and i had a fantastic day it was inspiring to see so many women standing up to what they believe in and when you go through domestic violence some how you end up feeling its only you this is happening to so to go to an event like this really opens up your mind and makes you believe you can get through anything life throws at you

i will be at the same place at the same time next year cant wait

Felicia // Posted 8 March 2009 at 10:57 am

I joined the march yesterday because ai have freedoms that Irene (my mother who killed herself in 1992) was denied. There were lots of photographers capturing us all marching, chanting and celebrating together. So where are we in the news? Women clearly have to raise their/our voices louder still just to get a little airtime. A disgrace. I marched for us all, for myself and for Irene. Never forget. In memory there is hope. L’Chaim!

Jackie Bather // Posted 8 March 2009 at 9:38 pm

I have been following the MWR website with great interest , but I live ‘out in the sticks’ in the north of England and couldn’t personally attend.There be many more of us around, who very much support the ethos of the march in head and heart, who were not physically able to be present. Brilliant photo’s,by the way…

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