On the 24th October 2012, NAWO was one of the many women’s organisations and feminists that descended on Parliament to demand that feminism be put to the heart of British politics. Lead by Emmeline Pankhurst’s great granddaughter, Helen, the activists held placards with the famous “Deeds not Words” Suffragette slogan. They protested on issues such as women’s lack of representation in Parliament, the low prosecution rate of rape, male-induced domestic violence and stalking, and the pay gap and poverty. NAWO’s Chair, Annette Lawson was there-
The night before, a friend and I spent an hour or so (I was more than glad of her help!) making a placard with NAWO’s name emblazoned and later I made a smaller one with
demands to the government to STOP, LISTEN and ACT!
On the morning of October 24th, I and many hundreds of other women, plus a few men and lots of media representatives, gathered at Church House in Great Peter
St. The hall was packed from the stage to the gallery. We heard from women MPs: Conservative, Amber Rudd; Labour, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP, the Shadow Home
Secretary; and Green, Caroline Lucas, former Green Party Leader, and from Miranda Whitehead, Chair, the Women LibDems – NAWO Members. All made excellent
speeches with Amber Rudd not surprisingly being heckled more than most despite her proud declaration that she was a feminist.
Then speeches from representatives of women’s organisations who spoke about the major areas on which we were lobbying – women asylum seekers (not believed), VAWG
(girls and women not believed, provision threatened and schools needing to act to prevent VAWG); child care (not enough, not good enough not inexpensive enough),
the objectification and sexualisation of women and girls in the media; abortion rights especially for women in Northern Ireland who have no entitlement at home and cannot
use the NHS here – yet they are UK citizens – all pertinent. We also had packs to give out to our MPs later when we were to lobby them inside Parliament, and for ourselves.
The buzz heightened as the sound of drums – the very same as participated at the Olympics in the opening ceremony. They marched to the stage followed by ‘Suffragettes’ dressed as Edwardian ladies, led by Dr Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of the famous Emmeline (also participants at the Olympics ceremony). They sang as they marched and at the end received a huge roar of approval as the littlest of them was lifted straight up in the air.
Then we marched to Parliament Square following the drums and ‘Suffragettes’. There were mothers with babes in buggies, all ages between and white haired women including two I met who had travelled down from the Arran Isles to be there. People of all colours and sizes too. I marched beside a woman and her husband from Ethiopia –Sylvia Pankhurst, one of Emmeline’s famous daughters with whom alas she quarrelled, is buried there. I did not know that. A young woman appeared at my side – the daughter of an old friend. ‘What are you doing here Kitty?’ I asked. ‘I am a feminist’. Enough said.
The press was mainly interested in taking pictures of the indeed picturesque ‘suffragettes’ and I did rather wish we had organised a ceremony in which the foremothers would open their semi-circle to admit a procession of us currently living feminists to display our demands for action now – beyond the vote, with grateful thanks to those who came before.
We lobbied our MPs. Time for Action Now!