I am not content with accepting the status quo, where men predominantly view women the way a parasite views its host. Where generations of mothers, sisters and wives are still conditioned to cater to the needs of men; where, in return for sustenance and comfort women are often betrayed, met with conditional love, hostility, violence, physical or mental death at the hands of men. To remain silent, assist in the oppression and violence against women, or escape are not the way women should be expected to exist.
On 9/3/2013, I joined over ten thousand women and girls, as part of Million Women Rise, we marched on central London. On entering Trafalgar Square we were enveloped by the sound of a sole female voice chanting ‘one woman – one body – one song – one love’, the beating heart of a sisterhood.
At the rally, women of the UK, DR Congo (as part of Common Cause UK), Sudan and Pakistan amongst others shared their experiences of the atrocities inflicted upon women worldwide. Individual women, collectively, calling upon the government, demanding an end to male violence against women.
Women spoke of their ongoing work to eradicate violence and linked oppressions stemming from patriarchy: rape, systematic rape of women in wars, domestic violence and death, sexism, racism, homophobia, re-educating men about ingrained male privilege, the effect of patriarchal misinterpretations of Islam were all addressed. Southall Black sisters informing of their demo on 23rd March 2013 ‘From Delhi to Southall: Freedom is our Right!’
For many women experiencing oppressions, our lived experiences are testament enough.
Those of us that go in search of positive black female role models who speak to us of the liberation of women, universal truths of our shared experiences of multiple oppressions and the interconnectedness of women, often turn to the more visible and accessible words of black feminist thinkers, as bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Patricia Hill-Collins, Kimberle Crenshaw…
Positive black female role models can help to drown out patriarchal white noise; their words can provide nourishment and assist self actualisation, encouraging women and girls to stand firm in their truth.
One woman that caught my attention – for she is the first South Asian woman I have discovered on my search for diverse herstories – is Roquia Khatun (1880 – 1932).
Speaking out against patriarchal oppression for Bangladeshi women, she challenged traditions and women’s rights. She believed education was key to the independence of women, so amongst her many achievements, her one woman campaigning, resulted in setting up a girls school in Calcutta, challenging Islamic misinterpretations designed to drive patriarchal traditions, founding the Islamic Women’s Association and publishing ‘Sultana’s Dream’ which has been described ‘as an early example of utopian feminist science fiction.’
Roquia Khatun exemplifies the impact one woman can make when she stands in her power. Before Roquia and over a century later, revolutionary women across continents have challenged patriarchy and created change, there is a need for more sisters to step forward and speak out collectively.
This year, over ten thousand women gathered in London traveling across the UK and overseas to stand against male violence.
What will the power of a million women strong sisterhood create?
Million Women Rise on or around International Women Day in London in March.
When I think about the power of sisterhood and unity, I’m reminded of words from bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody:
‘…Feminist sisterhood is rooted in shared commitment to struggle against patriarchal injustice, no matter the form that injustice takes. Political solidarity between women always undermines sexism and sets the stage for the overthrow of patriarchy…’