Women's March UK: What it's all about

You may have noticed your Twitter and Facebook feed is suddenly dominated by pictures of feet '“ or rather footwear.
Marches are being held in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and a number of other citiesMarches are being held in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and a number of other cities
Marches are being held in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and a number of other cities

These reverse selfies are being shared as people prepare to put their best foot forward in a huge demonstration planned for 21 January. Some will march in heels, others are dusting off their walking boots. All are marching with one common goal: to protect and strengthen women’s rights in 2017.

In the UK, marches are being held in Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff and a number of other cities. In London, 20,000 people have recorded themselves on Facebook as attending.

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Demonstrations are scheduled to run on the same day in countries such as Iraq, Iceland, Kenya, Japan, Canada and France. What began as a march in Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration is now a global movement. The march in the US capital is expected to be one of the biggest protests in American history.

However organisers have stressed the march, devised on US election night under the name Million Women March, is not specifically anti-Trump. A range of issues affecting women across the world will be represented there, such as the women denied access to abortion in Ireland, only recently dealt another blow to hopes of regaining their reproductive rights after the collapse of the power-sharing government.

Brexit, the refugee crisis and global instability – 2016 was a tumultuous year, galvanising even the most politically apathetic. The premise of the London march is broad but simple. “We will march,” say organisers, “wherever we march, for the protection of our fundamental rights and for the safeguarding of freedoms threatened by recent political events. We unite and stand together for the dignity and equality of all peoples, for the safety and health of our planet and for the strength of our vibrant and diverse communities.”

The Women’s Equality Party, launched in 2015, is one of the many organisations which will march in London. The party, which now has more than 65,000 members, is calling on the Government to create a statutory duty to end violence against women and protect their human rights.

Trump’s win ‘like being punched in the stomach’

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Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, told our sister paper i Mr Trump’s ascent to power has sparked a new urgency in the fight for gender equality. “What Donald Trump has done is enliven people to the threat that exists and we have seen a rise in our membership as a reaction to that.

People recognise that now is the time to step up.

“Trump’s win was like being punched in the stomach and it mobilised people very, very quickly.

“The WEP is marching on Saturday to reject the politics of division and hate and the rise of xenophobia in this country that threatens to roll back women’s very hard won freedom and halt progress in areas where there is still so much to do.

For example, to reclaim our democracy so the voices of women of colour and migrant women are equally heard, so survivors of violence and those who identify as LGBTQ+ are, and we are marching to bring the interests of all women into the political space.

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“We have mobilised a great number of our branches. We have people coming from right across the country to march with us.”

A huge wave of misogyny Ms Walker said the WEP has a number of aims it wants to promote in marching. Their first is to demand an end to violence against women, in all of its incarnations, particularly after the lewd comments made by the President-elect about grabbing women “by the pussy”.

“The populist right, as personified by Donald Trump, has given rise to a huge wave of misogyny. It has almost made harassment and sexual assault on women acceptable – in fact, you could argue it has made it acceptable.”

Ms Walker said any attack on reproductive rights is also a form of violence against women. “We view it as an attack on our wider choices. We view it for what it is: a step towards curtailing our participation in society and in economy.”

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The party is also pushing to secure equal opportunities in the workplace and the rights of workers as Britain prepares to withdraw from the European Union.

Brexit must not sacrifice equal pay

“In the incredibly uncertain political atmosphere in Britain right now we are demanding equal access to work and to worker’s rights. We are saying that the process of Brexit must not sacrifice equal pay, paid parental leave, affordable childcare and equal access to work for disabled women.”

They are also calling for gender parity within the immigration system.

“We think we should be recognising the economic benefits that are brought to this country by those who come to build a life here. We should be looking at giving immigrant women recourse to public funds regardless of their marital status.”