On a chilly Wednesday evening in early March, around 200 people came together in Reading town centre to march for a common cause — to show solidarity with billions of women around the world on International Women’s Day.
The type of people at the march were different to what I was expecting — in a good way. There were people from all walks of life, from young boys to old women, and a fair number of students, too. Perhaps the demographic that surprised me the most were the number of parents with babies in pushchairs and toddlers sat on shoulders. To me, it proved how women’s issues affected people of all ages and gender, and not just women.
We first gathered in Forbury Gardens before setting off along Broad Street. The banners proudly held by marchers were creative, thought-provoking, and relevant, as were the chants led by the leaders at the front of the march. “My body, my rights” was just one of the slogans which was shouted out of the lead megaphone and reverberated down the procession in responses from those taking part. Whilst walking down Broad Street, workers in shops and estate agents came to their windows to observe what all the noise was about; many of them stood and watched, looking surprised!
The march ended outside Reading Town Hall, where numerous speakers discussed their experiences with women’s rights campaigning and other similar movements. One of the speakers was Wendy Thomson, leader of the Reading and Henley branch of the Women’s Equality Party, who had helped organise the march. She spoke on issues that were close to home, including on the cuts in funding that have been made to local domestic violence organisation Berkshire Women’s Aid. I was lucky enough to have a brief chat with Wendy after the speeches.
On the role of the Women’s Equality Party, Wendy commented, “We’re a political party for gender equality — we do collaborative politics with any other political party that is working for gender equality.”
She was also keen to highlight how students can get involved with the movement.
“Sophie Walker (leader of the party) gave a lecture at Henley Business School a couple of weeks ago, so she was on campus. We’re in Reading, so students can join WEP Reading on Facebook, Twitter, or send us an email. Most of our meetings are in Reading like at Nibsy’s Coffee Shop or the Rising Sun Arts Centre.
“We want to work with students; we want students to be actively part of the branch and get involved with us.”