Poetry, projectors – and your messages on parliament | ActionAid UK

Alice Jennings

Campaigns Team

Last night at 10pm, I was shivering in the dark outside the Houses of Parliament while wondering if someone was going to pop up and tell us off. Why? Along with other campaigners, I was there because of the incredible lines of poetry sent in by people from all over the world for our Fearless campaign to end violence against women. Read on to find out how we took your messages to the heart of government, and to read the moving crowd-sourced poem made from the words of over 3,000 artists, activists, students, campaigners and more.

Campaigners project lines of poetry in central London as part of the Fearless campaign
Campaigners project lines of poetry in central London as part of the Fearless campaign

For more than a year, we’ve been urging the UK government to do more to support grassroots women’s rights organisations. These organisations are the backbone of the fight for gender equality, with research showing their work is the best way to create the real changes needed to bring down violence against women. Fast forward to today, and over 80,000 people have backed our campaign by signing petitions, emailing their MPs, contributing to our global poem and more.

So what were we doing outside parliament in the middle of the night?

With MPs back from holidays this week, we wanted to take these messages straight to the heart of the government – so we projected them in huge letters onto the Houses of Parliament.

Some of the lines of poetry were sobering, some were funny, and some were heart-warming. All of them showed just how strongly people all over the world care about ending violence against women – for good.

Read the whole poem below, or skip to the bottom to find out what’s next for the campaign.

Fearless: Our hopes for the women of tomorrow

We are the women of the world.
The women of the past and present.
We have been judged, beaten, disowned,
We have been tortured, bought and sold.

We demand the rights that are due to us.

For too long our voices were forced to be quiet,
we choked our words.
We wish to break the silence,
we demand for our noise to be heard.

We hope that no woman will ever again
need to avert her face to hide
the bruises. We expect men to take up the cry
against those of their kind who cause this pain.

We hope that the late-night streets we used to fear become our playgrounds.
That the catcalls and wolf-whistles that used to pierce us
fade into a distant echo;
We demand that we’re no longer prey.

We hope to feel the cold air at dark night.
To be free from the domestic chain.
Don’t restrict our steps.
Let us walk through the entire world.

We must reclaim the day.
We must reclaim the night.
We must hold up a light
for the ones who are voiceless.

We hope that all women will be free
from the cage of disapproval
of their looks, their build, their age.
So we can live our lives as free as birds in the sky.

We hope that one day giving birth to
a daughter is a blessing.
That she blossoms
like a daffodil with righteous energy.

That she can grow without the shadows
we were raised with.
Building a better future for her sisters.
We do not call her ‘Princess’ for she is a Mighty Girl.

We hope our girls can wear what they like
without it inciting violence, whether hot pants or hijab.

We hope that their worth
is not measured by the length of their skirt.

We hope they never have to apologise for being female,
that they are never punished because of their family's ‘honour’.

We hope to see our daughters grow in strength,
to know their beauty without anxiety.

We hope to see our sons grow bold
in loving and respecting the women their hearts may hold.

We hope our boys can admire beauty without feeling they have a right to it,
that they listen to the girls whenever they say 'no'.

Because we see a world
where every girl can raise her head.
Where she chooses who to share her bed with.
Where she can dream freely.

We demand all this for the children of tomorrow.
But we uphold the dignity
of every woman who chooses not to be a mother.
Each woman should be in charge of her own body; we are not commodities.

We must eradicate the words
"Girls don't do that".
“She was asking for it”.
“That’s good for a girl”.

We, the women of tomorrow must tell ourselves,
“Never be afraid to test our wings, we are stronger than we seem”.
“Ignore the media that says we’re too fat, too thin, too aggressive, too ambitious”.
We must turn the words “like a girl” into a compliment.

Our voices must ring loud and confident and kind,
whenever and wherever we choose to speak.
The silence we were trapped in must transform
into a roar that shatters every glass ceiling.

And when we look to our leaders, we must see our own faces.
Women must permeate all positions of power and bring
fierce change for the better of us all.
We want to grow up expecting to run the country.

We will not rest
until women can walk free all over the world,
until every single girl child is valued,
until rape is not used as a weapon of war.

We do not need to make women strong.
Because women already possess all the strength we could ever need.
Instead we must use our power
to take up all the space we need.

We stand with our daughters, our mothers, our sisters.
We stand upfront, never in the background,
We stand with broad shoulders, with fire in our bellies,
solidarity in our hearts.

And now we call on you to stand with us.

We must rise up,
for our daughters,
for our sons,
for ourselves.
We have been through the wars
we have fought alone
and we have been
fearless
in the face of oppression.
We are the people of the world
and we call on you.

We hope you will be fearless too.

What’s next for the Fearless campaign?

The campaign to end violence against women isn’t over. It is now a year since world leaders agreed a historic global goal to end violence against women and achieve gender equality, and they’re about to meet again in New York to review progress. The UK played an important role in securing these goals, and our new minister for development, Priti Patel, must make sure we deliver on our commitments by funding the crucial work of grassroots women’s rights organisations.

The campaign will be back in November, for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Violence Against Women. Watch this space – and if you want to join the fight to end violence against women, become an ActionAid campaigner to find out how you can get involved.

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The Fearless poem was edited by Talia Randall, with contributions from: Alison, Erica, Rashmi, Christina, Adriana, Catherine, Margaret, Fenella, Lynne, Jenny, Carol, Sabu, Penny, Marion, Rachel, Sue, Smarika, James,Kate, Susan, Sakib, Susan, Carol, Rusan, Chris, Francis, Jacqui, Pam, Keith, Hermione, John, Nighat, Salli, Karen, Diane, Sharmin, Geraldine, Roseanne, Rose, Rachel, Steve, Nick, Margaret, Soroptimists Yeovil & Sherborne & Districts

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