Meeting the women of Sisters Uncut really put all the information I’ve been gathering and processing into perspective. Seeing these young women, most of them in their 20s, out on the streets protesting against cuts and fighting for their voices to be heard was awe-inspiring.
The day began in a park in Soho. I arrived early and watched as the women trickled in one by one. Some came alone, others arrived in small groups; everyone united in their passion for the cause. It was a sisterhood from the second it began.
The organisation of the event was faultless. Considering Sisters Uncut is a nonhierarchical group it was impressive to see how well they worked without a leader, co-ordinating every element of the day in mutual consent. It began with the setting up of the placards and signs – long hand-made tapestries emblazoned with the words “DV SERVICES SAVE LIVES” and a portable art installation covered in hand-crafted flowers in the Sister’s colours (green and purple). Next veils were handed out to all who wanted them. It was a funeral march after all, and every detail was taken care of.
As the crowd started to swell music was played from a huge speaker being dragged by a bike. Girl power classics like Destiny’s Child and Alesha Keys blared across the small park, catching the attention of passers by who looked on with tentative intrigue.
By midday the park was jam-packed with women of all ages, journalists and police. It was time to start the speeches. One of the founding sisters came forward to gather everyone round, as one by one the sisters read out a list of every women who had died at the hands of their partner since 2010. The mood was sombre but defiance was etched into the faces of all present.
Next up was the march we had all been waiting for. As if it was rehearsed, the women made their way calmly out of the park gates and organised themselves into a convoy. Out came the mega phones and chants of “THEY CUT, WE BLEED” rang through the crisp London air.
From Soho we marched on to Trafalgar Square where once again we collected ourselves around a fountain that was promptly desecrated with red ink (a sign of discontent over the tampon tax). Time for another speech. This time there was anger in the air. They yelled in frustration about the cuts to live-saving services that many of them had personal experience using. They demanded that cuts must stop immediately and lambasted the Tory government for implementing sexist and racist austerity measures that disproportionately impacted women and minorities.
Sisters Uncut have gained a reputation for their eye-catching demonstrations, designed to capture the attention of the media. Yesterday the Guardian recognised their protest at The Suffragette premiere, where they stormed the red-carpet to draw attention to the continued plight of women at a time when feminism was starting to be considered a thing of the past, as one of the most important moments of 2015 for women.
This march was no different. As the speeches drew to a close purple and green smoke flares were let off into the crowd and red ink was poured into the fountains in protest at the governments decision to use taxes from sanitary products to plug funding gaps in the women’s sector. One woman’s placard read, “my blood should not pay for your violence,” a statement that summed up most of the women’s thoughts on the proposal.
After a further 15 minutes of dancing to the empowering sounds of Sister Sledge and Whitney Houston a horn was sounded, and with that the women dispersed in different directions, absconding with their anonymity in tact to the nearest tube stations.
I’m still not sure of the precise reasons the demo ended in this sudden fashion, but it certainly had impact. As I watched them scuttle back to their daily lives, I felt a sense of pride that I had been there to witness the strength of women in the face of adversity. Every woman who had attended became part of a temporary family, each there in support of the other, no-one alone, no-one left out and all infected with a fierce determination to continue the fight when next called upon to do so.
Check out this link for a visual run-down of the day…