Bev Mumford – Dunchurch & Thurlaston WI
I learnt about the Million Women Rise march whilst looking at the NFWI website and abuse against women is a subject close to my heart both personally and when I was a Social Worker working with children and their families. I decided to register to go on the march and asked a friend of mine to accompany me on the day by asking her “Would you like to do something that you have never done before?”. She readily agreed and before she could change her mind I registered her name too. I then enlisted the help of my husband to make our placards and once made, he helped me to write the information about abuse on the boards.

On the day of the march, the WI contingent met at the University of London in Marylebone Road where various speakers gave talks about domestic violence including a Women’s Aid manager sharing her own personal experience. Whilst we ate our packed lunches we were able to chat to other WI members who had travelled from various parts of the country to take part in the march. It was very clear that we all felt so passionate about getting the message across that abuse against women is just not acceptable.

Then we were off to meet up with the main thrust of the march in Duke Street. When I saw how many women there were from various women’s groups and organisations I was overwhelmed. This was when we really entered into the atmosphere of the day, we purchased our whistles and the procession of what was hundreds of women started. We marched from Duke Street along Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and onto Trafalgar Square for the rally and the end of the march which had covered a few miles. Along the route onlookers took photographs and accepted the leaflets being handed out. It felt so good to march down some of the major roads in London all closed to traffic because of us, a huge group of women of various ethnicity and religions uniting to get a message across about something we feel passionate about.

It was a last day out before the Covid 19 lockdown began and a day we will remember for a long time.

Emma Sharp – Kenilworth WI

One of the last WI events I attended before lockdown was a protest march in London…my first political protest march. A Million Women Rise is a woman-only march and rally held annually in London on the Saturday closest to International Women’s Day, 8 March. It is not a WI organised event but one that this year the National Federation supported in order to help raise awareness of continuing violence against women and children, sadly an issue that remains a global pandemic – a word I do not use lightly. As a parent of two girls it is a subject close to my heart, as a school governor with safeguarding responsibilities it is a subject close to my heart, as a trustee of a charity that works with disabled and disadvantaged children and adults it is a subject close to my heart.

Before we joined the march National had organised a mini conference with various women’s groups about violence against women. Listening to the difficulties faced by refugee women caught in domestic violence situations and to a harrowing and very open story of one woman’s experience and escape from a violent relationship left us all very emotional. The lady’s bravery to stand in front of us and describe what happened to her left me ready to march in her honour.

I can’t deny it was quite exciting to march and join the rally. We were all wearing red and made a colourful splash on a rather gloomy day. I met some lovely WI ladies and recruited a new member for Kenilworth WI – a lovely lady who had come along with a WI friend of hers. I look forward to welcoming her to our next meeting when we are all allowed to meet again. In the meantime, I remain thankful that I have a warm and loving home to stay safe in … something that many may not be so fortunate to have. I will march again!