11 March 2011

'A Million Women Rise' Does a large number of followers make people stand up and take note - or does it just pass us by? Do statistics, facts, and figures empower and engage or number us in our media

I recently visited the Museum of London with a friend, and amongst other things followed London’s history from Saxon villages to 2010 metropolis! Somewhere on that eclectic journey, I learnt more about the Suffragette movement and just what those women sacrificed to make a difference.

In celebration of 100 years of International Women’s Day, I joined Million Women Rise and around 15,000 women taking a stance on violence against women by marching from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square – holding up a banner on FGM and handing out FORWARD postcards (see photo album)! With mind numbering UK weekly figures – 2 women murdered by partners/ex’s, 5 cases of forced marriage; monthly honour killings and only 5% of rapes leading to conviction – it is the least I could do.

Internationally, 1 in 3 women is abused in her lifetime and gender based violence accounts for more deaths than cancer, malaria, accidents and war together. This is the reason for my studying until July on a multi-cultural course on Counselling and Therapy for women overcoming experiences of violence – so I can help women recover from their pain of FGM and transform their lives. In 1994 Efua Dorkeenoo stated in ‘Cutting the Rose’, ‘To succeed in abolishing FGM will demand fundamental attitudinal shifts in the way society perceives the human rights of women’. Sadly, this is still true today. Each week I learn about diversity, myths and legends of violence and practice my skills in group work and role plays.

Whether 8th March was celebrated by you for International Women’s Day – or Pancake Day (the beginning of Lent) will depend on your tastes! I was invited to speak at Keele University’s Woman’s Society Debate – but the opposite side (!) couldn’t make it – so I’ll go later this month. I also celebrated International Women’s Day by speaking on Premier Radio, helped research for a House of Lords maiden speech on FGM and provided an FGM article for ‘The Scotsman’. Why do I do these things? As I said to one reporter on the march, ‘if what I do makes a difference to the life of one girl/woman, it is a life worth living’.

Spare a thought for women from 1911 onwards who stood up to make a difference to our society. As you digest your pancakes, see what you will leave as a legacy for the year of 2011 to look back on with pride!