Adiba – Dublin
The 24th of September was a day of solidarity for women across the world. On this day, women across the board poured into the streets to show support for the right to choose. In Dublin, we marched to repeal the 8th Amendment. To stop the unnecessary pain, suffering and death that Irish women face every day.
The day was one that was filled with obstacles. From the get-go, the Dublin bus strikes were placing hindrance in the path of many who wanted to attend the march. People got on board to help. The Facebook Event page became filled with encouragements, and with carpooling ideas. In the days coming up to the march, the Abortion Rights Campaign group set up a separate transport group in order to make sure that those who wanted to make the march would have the access that they needed.
The day itself was unpleasant. There was drizzling rain that surmounted to even more as the march continued on its path. That didn’t stop thousands of women, men and children from getting out onto the street and marching. Umbrellas up high, signs up high. One woman held a sign that read, “I have an A3 laminator so screw you pro-lifers” on one side, while the other side read that she had had five children by choice, and one abortion by choice. Good on her! Not all were so lucky. Some had paper signs that were wilting, and melting in the downpour. Even umbrellas could do little to protect them for long. No worries, there were plenty of signs to go around.
One guy went around handing out paper badges with “Repeal the 8th” written on it. They didn’t make it long in the rain either. But there was more. There was the call and answer. What do we want? Repeal the 8th. When do we want it? Now! It echoed down the entire length of the march, followed by cheers and shouts.
There was the general good feeling of solidarity. Friends running up to each other and embracing in excitement as they unexpectedly found each other among the marchers. There were the people with brilliant signs, constantly asked for photos by strangers, cheerfully accepting and smiling.
Perhaps even better was the outpouring of encouragement from outside Ireland. On the Facebook page for the march, the pictures started coming in as the march began. Everyone expressing their solidarity with their own posters and marches.
In Dublin, the 24th of September 2016 was the 5th annual march for choice. We hope that it is the last time have to get out into the streets and chant for our right to choose. Our right to our bodies. Our right to our lives.
Ciannait – Berlin
For me, one of the hardest parts about being away from Ireland is the fact that I’m missing out on being home while the country is in the midst of revolutionary social change. Two years ago, unprecedented numbers of Irish people came out to fight against the implementation of mandatory water charges. Then, in May 2015, we were the first country in the world to vote yes to same-sex marriage in a referendum. After such a happy result, I felt a change in myself and in others. Campaigning no longer felt like something to just do on principle, a way of expressing discontent into the void – it was something that could bring real change.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the Berlin Irish Pro-Choice Solidarity group when I moved to Berlin. They organise regular fundraisers and take part in protests, and it’s great to be able to be involved even though I’m not physically in Ireland.
We’d been planning to do something in solidarity with the March for Choice for a while, but I don’t think anybody expected the turnout we got. Days before the march, the Repeal Global movement started to pop up on my Facebook and Twitter. I had thought that the group in Berlin was a one-off. How amazing it was to find out that there were in fact people standing in solidarity with us all over the world; in Cambodia, Canada, Russia, Scotland, England, The Netherlands, Nepal, Australia, the US, and beyond.
As soon as I woke up on the morning of the 24th of September, I felt part of something bigger. My social media feeds were flooded with talk of the march and of women’s right to choose. I had that familiar flutter of excitement and hope that I’d felt around the time of the marriage referendum.
It was a sunny day in Berlin and we gathered in Tempelhofer Feld, an abandoned airport. When I arrived there were already well over one hundred people gathered on the runway – a location which had been chosen to symbolise the journey that several Irish women make each week as they seek safe and legal abortions abroad. Many people were wearing the iconic black Repeal jumper while others wore t-shirts with Maser’s famous heart mural. I was bowled over by the level of support that clearly exists here.
Several members of the Berlin Irish Pro-Choice Solidarity Group spoke about the situation of Ireland, with contributions also made by Polish pro-choice activists. Safe to say the day was a success, and the pro-choice community in Berlin strengthened. Here’s hoping we keep this momentum going and that when we march again in 2017, we’ll be several steps closer to choice for Irish women.
Shannon – Utrecht
When I woke up on the 24th September, I didn’t know what to expect. I checked my news feed on all social media platforms and saw images of my friends en route to the March for Choice in Dublin, their faces painted and smiling despite the grim weather back home. I was en route to Wilhelminapark Park in Utrecht, the Netherlands with a megaphone and three friends cycling behind with bags full of banners we had made during the week, none of whom were Irish. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I met Irish people from all over the Netherlands whose “niece, daughter, friend” had told them about this event after they’d seen it on Facebook. The response was truly incredible with people arriving, approaching nervously at first, asking “Is this for Repeal the 8th?” and then settling in among people with the same belief; that women should have the right to choose, that having control over their own bodies was their own fundamental right, and not something to be controlled by the government.
I met people from all over the world that day, as Utrecht is full of international students. I decided to document why they were there and their answers reminded me that we are not alone. That this fight Irish women were tackling across the world was gaining momentum, that people were watching, and more amazingly, people were willing to help. They wanted to stand in solidarity with the people of Ireland who were fed up of a government who refused to listen.
One English girl told me she couldn’t imagine not having the right to make decisions over her own body. The same sentiment was repeated throughout the day. One Irish girl, Tessa McKenna captured it perfectly, saying:
“I think it’s important because we are starting to realise that we can take control of our futures. I don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t respect women and give them their basic rights to choose. I would like my children to feel safe and cared for in their own country if they ever were in a crisis pregnancy. I’m angry how many women feel ashamed and isolated for so long. Every woman who has shared their story is incredibly brave and we all stand together.”
Two cases really struck me. One was that of a man who spoke to me when the event was winding down and thanked me for organising the event. He told me how he’d grown up in a family who were extremely pro-life and how he had never even considered the other side of the story until he started to read the stories of women who had to travel abroad for abortions. Another was a woman from the USA who’d been living in the Netherlands most of her life and had brought her four-year-old daughter with her. She told me how she wanted her daughter to grow up knowing her rights, as well as being able to support and fight for women whose rights were being denied.
On the 24th September, over 60 people gathered in a park, and the feeling of solidarity was palpable as I watched strangers converse, hold banners, take photos, and then spam social media. Eleven Irish women and one Irish man stood together to read the Renunciation, a performance art piece that mirrors the Angelus, telling stories of the different cases of the twelve women who travel to England daily for an abortion. While this was only one small step in the journey to abolish this archaic law, I was filled with hope for the future as I looked around me and realised people are standing with us, and that our voices cannot be silenced.