WRDA staff with banners at IWD 2024 rally.

The theme for this year was “Peace and Courage”, recognizing that it takes courage to create peace. Conflicts are raging in Ukraine, Sudan, and Yemen, Genocides are happening right now against Palestinians in Gaza and against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province of China. In a world, in the words of our final speaker, “hurtling towards World War three”, standing up for peace is its own kind of bravery.

The rally was well attended with hundreds or people turning up with placards, banners, whistles and painted faces! In spite of the times we are living in the rally managed to maintain a hopeful, festival atmosphere. Congratulations are due to the organisers, Reclaim the Agenda, for creating a safe, fun, and hopeful event bringing together all sections of our movement.

Two speakers had to withdraw due to online hate. A Palestinian refugee woman withdrew due to the hostile environment facing people seeking international protection. A young woman from the LGBTQ+ community also withdrew due to the online hate directed at another speaker. The organisers, Reclaim the Agenda, praised the women’s courage in making this decision and reminded the crowd that, in the words of Audre Lorde, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”.

The speakers were an inspirational cross section of the feminist movement here. Sarah Griffiths MBE, also known as “whellie momma”, is an intuitive speaker, author, copy writer empowerment mentor and a disabled mum of 3. She helps exhausted people pleasers know their worth and prioritise themselves to become unshakeable and build a life that lights them up.

Alina Gawharry, an artist who escaped Afghanistan and is now making her home in Belfast, addressed the rally. She spoke passionately about the situation facing young women in Afghanistan. “The only thing I can do as an artist for my country and my family is to show beauty, unheard voices and beauty of music. I use my brushes as a weapon in front of the sad things which are happening in my country”.

Avila Kilmurray, a veteran of the feminist movement and peace activist, has long advocated non-violent activism to deliver progressive change.

Alexa Moore, Policy, Campaigns and Communications Manager for the Rainbow Project, got the crowd chanting during her speech. She led an inspiring call and response of “trans rights are women’s rights”. We are proud to be an inclusive feminist movement and it was lovely to have a good chant reflecting this.

The co-founder of the Community of Peace People, Mairead Maguire, brought the rally to a close with her call for a peaceful solution the world’s conflicts and a warning that if such peaceful solution was not pursued we could be on the precipice of “World War three”. A sobering but hopeful reminder that peace is an action and we all have a contribution to make.