Guest blog by Ruth Ng, Redlands WI, Berkshire Federation
On Wednesday 8th March, members from Redlands WI, Berkshire Federation as well as some friends and family, joined with local community groups and members of the public for a solidarity walk through the town centre to celebrate International Women’s Day. The night before, some of us met under the guise of book group, but spent most of the evening putting together our WI banner and making placards to carry! It was a lovely evening, with much hammering, lettering and laughter!
We had decided to write some of the mandates that the WI has campaigned on over the years on our placards, such as ‘routine smear tests for cervical cancer (1964)’ and ‘adequate sentencing for rape (1988)’. Reading through the mandates the WI has been involved in was an inspiring experience, and I felt very proud to belong to such an active organisation.
These feelings continued the next day as we met up ready for the walk, and with our placards and banner we felt like a ‘proper’ group! Joining others from our local community on the walk was exciting, with both women, men and children from a variety of organisations including trade unions, Berkshire Women’s Aid, the Women’s Equality Party, the University of Reading Students’ Union and other local residents. Meeting first in Forbury Gardens we then walked down the high street, with lots of onlookers coming out of the shops to see us, and some even grabbing cardboard boxes along the way to quickly make a sign to hold and join in. I had brought my two children along (aged 10 and 4) and they both had placards to hold as well, thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere! The messages being carried across the whole walk were all very different, but there was definitely a communal feeling, with us all having the same desire for equality.
The walk ended by the town hall, with speeches and songs. One of the speakers specifically mentioned the WI’s involvement and how glad they were for our presence at the march, to which we all cheered loudly, of course! The whole experience felt empowering, and it was a very positive and inclusive event, and left many of us feeling emotional, and proud. I personally found it an inspiring experience, and I particularly enjoyed taking my children along, speaking with them about the WI, and about women’s rights and opportunities. We are all eager for our next opportunity to take our banners out into the community and continue to spread the word about the amazing things that the WI has already, and continues, to achieve!