Through a miracle of co-operation and co-ordination, in over 70 countries around the world, at over 400 events, women gathered today on bridges in support of women's rights. The organisers, Women for Women International, have stated their mission:
To change the world, one woman at a time.
The idea for Join Me on the Bridge came from the Country Directors of Women for Women's programmes in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo - two countries which have seen some of the most devastating impacts of war in recent years and where atrocities such as rape, torture and violence against women are commonplace. Women from both countries had decided to come together on a bridge which borders their countries, in the heart of the conflict; to stand up for peace and an end to violence against women. Their courage inspired women across the globe to emulate their example every International Women's Day, beginning last year.
I was at today's London event. We met at Borough market and I stood and watched as women of every age and culture gathered to make banners and mingle.
With Annie Lennox and Bianca Jagger at the head of the march, we set off across the Millennium Bridge. At St Paul's the cloudless skies were studded with the hundreds of white balloons which we released. With songs, chants and good humour, we moved along Embankment in the Spring sunshine and then crossed back over the river to the South Bank to listen to empassioned speeches by women from as far away as Congo (the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman) and Afghanistan, as well as speakers from closer to home, among them Annie, Bianca, Cherie Lunghi and Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of Emmeline and granddaughter of Sylvia, and an ambassador for Care International. (See this article by Helen re today's event.)
Facebook wall. For me, it was like completing a new link in a chain that began half my lifetime ago. I was taken back several decades to marches that were in some ways similar, but the progress we have made was clear. Back then, the main criticism of the fledgling women's movement (criticism which I believe to be valid) was that it catered mainly for the needs of middle class white women in the developed world.
In 2011, that's categorically not the case. With the advent of global communications, the world has shrunk. No woman in the UK or US has an excuse not to know about the plight of women in other parts of the world; women who struggle simply to survive - because of their gender. The most uplifting aspect of today's event was the way it was enacted all over the world, with women (and their male supporters - another big difference from the early years) reaching out with a common purpose: for peace and equal rights for all women.
That shouldn't be too much to ask should it?