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'Million women rise' march
'Power to the women' was the slogan of the 'Million women rise' (MWR) march through central London on Saturday 7 March and it was genuinely inspiring to participate with around 3,000 women in such a lively, loud demonstration.
Organised to mark International Women's Day, this march against violence against women had a truly international flavour with groups representing Kurdish, Iranian, Turkish and Sudanese women.
Women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo whose banner read 'blood in your phone', highlighted UK-based multinational corporations that exploit minerals such as Coltan - used to manufacture microchips for phones and computers - profiting from forced labour and war in the region.
There were placards showing the effects of horrendous acid attacks carried out on women in Iran who refuse to conform to dress and behaviour codes imposed by the regime. Such attacks have increased since the Iranian government proposed 'Promotion of Virtue' laws to enforce 'proper' wearing of the hijab.
A contingent of Turkish and Kurdish women from Day-Mer Women's Organisation carried a banner declaring "Let's unite against austerity, war and violence and fight for our labour and social rights". Kurdish women from the Women's Alliance for Kurdistan, Iraq and Syria flew YPJ flags and were keen to discuss the situation in Rojava, the newly autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria. In the armed struggle of the Kurdish Protection Units against Isis in Syria, women have made up 50% of the fighting forces.
Many women on the march were survivors of violence, rape or child sexual abuse and MWR has a number of demands which the Socialist Party supports, such as proper funding of services for women escaping violence, abolishing the 'no recourse to public funds' rule for people from abroad, and safe houses for victims of trafficking.
However, at a time when local authorities, whether Labour, Tory, Lib Dem or Plaid Cymru are cutting funding for refuge services, and when Labour has pledged to keep to Tory austerity budgets, it was disappointing to say the least that a woman speaking from the platform about saving the NHS, called for a vote for Labour in May's general election – in the much mistaken spirit of ‘lesser evilism’.
Nevertheless, many of the participants in the demo were open to socialist ideas, took our Socialist Party special leaflet with enthusiasm, bought our material and expressed interest in keeping in touch.