#March4Women: “There’s no climate justice without gender justice”
“This is the time for action!”
On International Women’s Day, Sunday 8th March 2020, people came together in London to celebrate the power and passion of women and girls on the frontline of the climate crisis – and to call for action to support women and girls so that they can lead and shape the response to the climate crisis.
Because, as women’s rights activist Shola Mos-Shogbamimu said to 5,000 people at Parliament Square, following the #March4Women march in central London:
This is the time for action! It is time for a revolution in our thinking, a revolution in our choices, and a revolution by action.
But a revolution can only start with you. Are you ready to be a revolution?
The day featured a march down Whitehall, ending in a grand finale with fabulous music from Låpsley (above) whose song Womxn is (in Låpsley’s words) “about finding strength; it’s about defiance”; from Ricky Wilson of the Kaiser Chiefs (accompanied by David Arnold); from Emeli Sandé; and from the Urban Voices Collective.
There were brilliant poems from Nikita Gill and Maja Antoine-Onikoyi, and rousing speeches from Helen Pankhurst, Sadiq Khan, George MacKay, and 15-year-old climate activist Scarlett Westbrook – all superbly introduced and hosted by Sandi Toksvig. Find out more about what they said below!
Nikita Gill (above) read her poem ‘An Ode to Fearless Women’ which includes the lines:
Defined by no man, you are your own story,
blazing through the world, turning history into herstory.
And when they dare to tell you about
all the things you cannot be,
you smile and tell them,
“I am both war and women and you cannot stop me”.
Sadiq Khan (above) said:
Us men stand shoulder to shoulder with women and girls.
Sandi Toksvig (above) responded:
We need the boys onside; we just don’t need them in charge!
Helen Pankhurst (above) said:
The voice for change is loud and clear. This International Women’s Day we are focusing on the link between gender justice and climate justice. Both concepts are radical; both are necessary. One cannot be achieved without the other.
“I have seen the strength of women and girls, their ability to cope, and their continued resilience in the face of cycles of drought and floods.
“However, I have also seen how, when it comes to real power, their influence over policies on natural resource management and on addressing environmental crises, women and girls are rarely at the political table.
From the local to the global level, the world over, it is men who by and large are the political leaders. When it comes to places of power, women and girls are too easily ignored.
This has to stop. And it can stop. With local and global solidarity, a solidarity that instead of just expecting women and girls to cope with environmental disasters, demands that they are given the power to prevent them – so that they can steward our planet with more concern for Mother Earth than has been demonstrated to date.”
Emeli Sandé (above), a great activist and advocate for women’s rights, sang ‘You are not alone’ which includes the lines: “Are you sick and tired of being lied to, getting kind of bored of being ignored?” But as she said when she introduced her next song, ‘There’s nothing we can’t handle’:
I wanted to give this message to encourage you to keep fighting, keep using your voice. Whatever you may have been put through, no matter what injustices we may face, there truly is nothing we can’t handle.
George MacKay (above) gave a brave and moving speech about the importance of women in his life and his own journey to understand the roles of patriarchy and dominant paradigms of masculinity: “The world is in danger. Our home and our planet is in dire need, and now is not the time to be led by a majority who see the world in terms of dominance.” He said:
It’s the systemic patriarchy that has shaped an imbalance in how we expect our world to run.
But, he said, “We can change. Government can see sense.” And when those decisions come, they “come from actions such as you are taking today.”
We are doing it. But we must not stop. We must do it for each other, for all that share this precious air with us.
Maja Antoine-Onikoyi (above, watched by Sandi Toksvig and George MacKay) read a powerful poem written for International Women’s Day, which included the lines:
So understand our urgency as suggestions turn to demands
As we command the men in power to step aside
As women refuse to stand and watch them ignore other women and children cry
All because it seems like too much of a mission
To let a woman sit at the table where big boys make the decision
About the world we all live in…
Sandi Toksvig introduced the final speaker of the #March4Women rally: “Our last speaker today is the future – please welcome the youth activist and climate striker, Scarlett Westbrook.” Scarlett (above), aged 15, is a climate activist from Birmingham, and this is what she said:
“Climate change is not only a pressing ecological issue but a political and ethical labyrinth. The historic legacy of colonialism has resulted in the decreased economic capacity of the global South, meaning that their ability to deal with the impacts of climate change will be stunted.”
Climate justice means that we fix this. It’s about making up for the disasters of the past in order to make way for a better future.
“Climate change is also a sexist issue. Just like society, it discriminates; and just like inequality, the legislation currently in place to combat it is inadequate. It is the biggest threat that mankind has ever faced, however it is women who are disproportionately affected compared to men.”
As long as we don’t act, more natural disasters will occur, resulting in more women dying, being displaced or exploited, because the measures in place aren’t adequate in protecting them.
“Women are traditionally the ones who pick up the pieces after natural disasters, rebuilding communities. But with the current policy, every brick that we lay gets thrown back in our face.
“This has to stop… As the government don’t act, the time that we have left to change things decreases, all whilst the death toll decreases… And we don’t want politicians’ words, we want politicians’ deeds.”
We may be the generation of tomorrow, but we can’t have you steal our today.
Take action now! Sign our petition calling on the UK government, as host of the COP26 UN climate talks, to:
- Push all governments to agree national plans that limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees – and support women to lead and shape these plans
- Publish an ambitious plan to rapidly shift the UK to net zero emissions
- Make sure climate finance reaches women and women’s organisations on the frontlines of the climate crisis
Thank you to all our #March4Women partners and to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting #March4Women 2020.
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