Candles lit up the steps of Hackney Town Hall today for an International Women’s Day memorial, where passersby could stop to remember the sacrifices made and lives lost over the past year.
Members of the public were encouraged to attend the event, organised by the Women’s Strike Assembly (WSA), a group championing women’s rights across the UK, as part of their daily walk.
Similar events took place in Brixton, Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Plymouth.
WSA’s Esther Lutz Davies said: “We’ve decided to make it into a memorial this year because it touches on quite a lot of struggles.
“It is remembering everyone we’ve lost to Covid, but it’s also about women we’ve lost to domestic violence, it’s about people we’ve lost to police violence, it can be what people want to make of this space.”
The Twitter hashtags #WeStrike and #8M2021 saw people around the UK expressing why they were taking part, with common themes being women’s unrecognised sacrifices and labour over the course of the pandemic.
“I think more than ever it has become very clear that women’s labour has been the backbone of what’s enabled us to survive this past year,” said Lutz Davies.
“I think this has become more visible, but that doesn’t mean it has become more valued. I think we’re seeing it now in the NHS with the nurses, traditionally considered a woman’s role, getting such an insignificant pay rise.”
Over the last 12 months, the women’s rights movement has undergone change, with the Black Lives Matter and trans liberation movements gaining traction. While mainstream feminism has historically centred on issues such as the pay gap, this year the experiences of Black, Asian, minority ethnic and transgender people are a focus for the WSA.
Lutz Davies added: “Feminism isn’t useful in itself without intersecting with all these other struggles, and feminism needs to incorporate these struggles into itself.”
In order to comply with Covid restrictions, the group asked people to avoid taking public transport and taxis to the memorial, to observe social distancing and to wear masks where possible.
For those who could not attend in person, the group has created a digital memorial space where participants can share memories and thoughts relevant to the day.
They also outlined five other ways to take part on their Twitter page and on their website, including taking leave or calling in sick from work, wearing red, and putting posters, red ribbons, flowers and candles in windows or in local parks.
The digital memorial space can be found at womenstrike.org.uk/digital-memorial