#March4Women 2018: Thousands march for gender equality

Some of the thousands of marchers setting off from Parliament Square to #March4Women

Thousands of women, girls, men, boys and people of all genders came together to #March4Women in London on Sunday 4 March.

More than 5,000 people marched from outside the Houses of Parliament to Trafalgar Square, and more than 7,000 packed out Trafalgar Square to hear Sue Perkins introduce a fantastic line-up of speakers, musicians and actors.

Crowd at #March4Women at Trafalgar Square
Thousands of people gathered at Trafalgar Square at the #March4Women event

Sue Perkins told the crowd: “It’s 100 years since the first women in this country won the right to vote. And 100 years on, there is SO MUCH MORE TO DO!”

Women still don’t have equal rights across the world, women are still paid less than their male counterparts.

“This is where CARE International comes in. They run projects around the world to empower women to live, learn and earn free from violence and discrimination – they understand that women must be at the heart of fighting poverty.”

Sue Perkins at #March4Women

We’re here today to show solidarity with those women who don’t have the same rights as men. We’re here to give representation and a voice to the millions who don’t have the luxury of this platform. Who are denied not only the right to free speech but the right to be truly, truly heard.

Anne-Marie Duff set the tone with her reading of one of Emmeline Pankhurst’s most historic and inspirational speeches, ‘Freedom or Death’, including the rousing call to action:

Now, I ask you, is there any limit to what we can do except the limit we put upon ourselves?

Sadiq Khan and others at the front of the #March4Women
Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu (right) at the start of the march with (from right to left) Jude Kelly CBE, Bianca Jagger (who gave a rousing speech before the march set off), MP Maria Miller (Chair of the Women and Equality Select Committee), Faeeza Vaid and Nazma Akter

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, founder of Women in Leadership, said:

Take this pledge with me: I solemnly swear to be totally bad-ass; I solemnly swear to not give up; I solemnly swear to fight the good fight.

Sadiq Khan at the #March4Women

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said:

Having been in Parliament Square, having walked with the #March4Women, and looking around Trafalgar Square now, can I just say, I am so proud to be your Mayor. The way for all of us to succeed is to join the fight for gender equality.

Annie Lennox delivered an inspiring video message to the #March4Women crowd:

Nazma Akter, a trade unionist, activist and women’s leader from Bangladesh, gave an emotional speech:

“I started in a garment factory when I was 11 years old. While I was making your dresses, I did not go to school; I did not get an education. I worked my hours in a sweatshop and I made 2 pounds a month.

“We faced a lot of challenges when I was young – long hours, often not paid on time, verbal and physical harassment.” 

I decided if I wanted change, I should start to organise women to make change for ourselves. 

“I was beaten, I lost my job, I was blacklisted – society was not accepting a woman leader. I was not seen as a leader but a troublemaker.”

Nazma Akter and others at #March4Women
Nazma Akter (centre, with orange scarf) with (left to right) Michael Sheen, Sadiq Khan, Bianca Jagger, Faeeza Vaid, Laura Pankhurst, and 7-year-old Emily Lagu-Shapland

“For many years now I have been fighting. Today, despite barriers and resistance from a male dominated society, I am one of the foremost labour leaders in Bangladesh.

“Still conditions are very hard for us. Women are earning 50 pounds per month making your t-shirts, your dresses, your leggings.”

When clothes are cheap, women are cheap. Nothing comes for free in this world. Nothing is a discount. Women pay with their blood and their sweat. They take our energy, our youth, our education.

“To make change, we need solidarity. We need female leadership. We need each other. We need women to know their rights and demand them. We need companies and consumers to listen to women’s voices, listen to women’s demands and respect them.”

Sign CARE’s petition letter calling on UK fashion brands to protect the women who make your clothes.

The crowd and stage at #March4Women
Sue Perkins entertains the crowd at the #March4Women at Trafalgar Square

Salena Godden read two poems, including ‘Courage is a muscle’:

And when we get weary
we march side by side
100 years, we’re still marching
with courage and pride

Faeeza Vaid from Muslim Women’s Network spoke next:

“I’m still marching because so many experience discrimination and sexual violence because of their gender, their race, their religion, their age, and their sexuality... All of this is not OK. It should not be part of normal life, here or anywhere.”

Either we fight for all or we all fall. I know today I am looking at fighters – fighters who are all saying, Time’s up! And that’s why we still march!

Laura Pankhurst, great-great-granddaughter of Emmeline and daughter of Helen, said: “Today is a moment to be energised by the drive and positivity that you all bring.” Laura was joined on stage by 7-year-old Emily Lagu-Shapland – named after suffragette Emily Davison – who has been coming to the #March4Women “for as along as I can remember – since I was in a buggy”.

Michael Sheen holds a #March4Women placard

Michael Sheen (above) read an extract from a speech delivered by Keir Hardie in Trafalgar Square in 1905, calling for women’s rights and participation in every sphere of life. Michael concluded:

“For men today, it costs us nothing to join this movement for gender equality. We must cast off the ludicrous notions of masculinity that cause such misery for us all.”

So it is with great pride, with great honour, that I marched with you all this morning, on the road to a fairer world. 

“We’re part of the way there. Solidarity will take us the rest of the way.”

Helen Pankhurst at #March4Women

Helen Pankhurst (above) took to the stage to address Trafalgar Square, just like her grandmother Sylvia and her great-grandmother Emmeline. She said:

“If the suffragettes of old could see this world of ours now, they would be delighted by some of the progress and the opportunities that we now have. But they would also be shocked by how much has stayed the same. The misogyny, the continued presumption of male entitlement, and the abuse meted out to women who speak out.”

However, right now, in 2018, they would also be huddling around us, eyes full of excitement, recognising that spirit of disruption and of resistance which is in the air again.

The spine-tingling musical performances included Eden Tikare singing ‘True Colours’; Sophie Ellis Bextor singing ‘I won’t back down’; Biffy Clyro performing two songs, ‘Rearrange’ and ‘Howl’; and the unforgettable finale – organised and coordinated by long-time CARE supporter, the fantastic David Arnold – featuring the fabulous all-female Bond String Quartet and the Urban Voices Collective belting out the classic anthem ‘You don’t own me’.

The Urban Voices Collective at #March4Women
The Urban Voices Collective performing 'You don't own me'

Thank you to everyone who came out to #March4Women – now let’s all work together to help make a more equal world.

CARE's picture

News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.