Women stand together

   Sydney - Parramatta - Wollongong - Canberra - Bathurst

The feeling was festive as women of all ages and from all walks of life gathered in Hyde Park for the annual International Women’s Day march, but the message was sombre: the struggle for equal rights continues.

Speaker after speaker, from Unions NSW to former President of the NSW Legislative Council Meredith Burgmann called for an end to gendered violence and implementation of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces.

Other issues aired before the rapidly swelling crowd included national adoption of 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave per year; attacks on women’s frontline services such as domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centres; the safety of women and children in light of the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children in February 2020; equal pay; and rising homelessness among women, particularly those over 50.

As the crowd of about 2500 spilled on to Castlereagh Street for the march, contingents from education sector unions including the IEU, the NSW Teachers’ Federation and the National Tertiary Education Union were proudly visible. Also flying their flags high were the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, the United Workers Union and the Finance Sector Union.

A group of about 50 black-clad South American women injected infectious, show-stopping drama, halting in the middle of each intersection to chant and stomp to “Un Violador en Tu Camino” (A Rapist in Your Path), a Chilean protest song about rape culture and victim shaming. First performed by a feminist collective for the International Day of Violence Against Women in 2019, it has since gone viral on social media and been performed at marches throughout the world. It was Sydney’s turn.

The march found its way to Prince Alfred Park where the sun shone and the sense of solidarity was strong. The demographic was diverse yet unified, creative and cool – the future, as they say, is female.