Million Women Rise: "We have to show up for ourselves"

Associate Professor in Journalism, Wendy Sloane, reports on London Met's most recent Digital Pride event led by three inspirational activists.

Date: 26 June 2020

Three inspirational activists and self-proclaimed “Black Dykes” from Million Women Rise, or MWR, gave a virtual talk at London Met on Thursday as part of the University’s Digital Pride 2020, celebrating all things queer.

MWR is an annual event for women only that meets up once a year in central London, as close to International Women’s Day (8 March) as possible, to protest against and end violence against women and girls. This year’s march took place on Saturday, 7 March, just a few weeks before lockdown.

“The truth is that violence against women has risen,” Sabrina Qureshi, the movement’s founder, told a Zoom crowd. “I’d rather be at home chilling in my garden than out on the streets. But the reason the march carries on is because the violence hasn’t stopped.”

Statistics on the MWR website say that one in four women has been a victim of domestic violence, while every week two women are murdered by a partner or ex-partner. Only five per cent of rapes that are reported result in convictions, yet despite this rape crisis centres do not exist in nine out of ten local authorities. 

Sabrina Qureshi said it was important that Black women had a “safe space” to call their own, and that MWR – founded in 2008 - was helping to fill that need. 

“In the feminist movement we always felt like we as Black women were at the end of the march,” she said. “We’re sick of having the conversation, having the statistics, not being cared about, not being recognised.

“We wanted to be able to get to speak, and not have the same type of women speaking for us.”

March organiser and activist Marai Larasi said that recent events struck a particular chord. “I want us to know that we can create a different world,” she said. 

“We saw what happened to George Floyd. As Black Lesbians, we see, we know, we’re here, we live and we are demanding a sort of accountability.

“Ain’t nobody gonna show up for us, so we have to show up for ourselves.” 

Donna Carty added: “The joy of the march is the number of Black women of all different backgrounds who get involved, and feel safe in the space.”

Principal Lecturer and Head of Social Work Donna Jones, who organised the event, said events such as MWR would continue to exist until the violence stops. “The issue of violence against women, the issue of the patriarchy, is at the core of what we’re doing,” she said. 

Vice-Chancellor Lynn Dobbs was touched by the talk. “It has been really informative and interesting listening to you all,” she wrote in the Zoom chatbox during the event. “I’ve learned a lot and it has informed my way of thinking. Thank you.”

Sign from Million Women Rise march

Find out about upcoming Digital Pride events on our LGBTQIA+ Community pages