As A Woman Of Colour, This Is What Women's March London Means To Me

19/01/2017 10:50 | Updated 28 February 2017
Poorna Bell

It's the 80s.

There is a young Indian woman, and she's trudging through the snow. It's 5am, and she's got to make the two-hour journey to London to get to work, and she's got two young daughters who are still asleep in their beds.

She's facing the same struggles a lot of women do right now - she wants to be with her babies, she's worrying about whether she's a good mother by going to work.

But she's also a first generation immigrant, so she's got the additional task of balancing her gender and her race, trying to carve her life and the identity of her kids in a land that isn't her own.

She doesn't have time to protest for women's rights, so she's going to have to do the best she can.

This woman is my mother, and whether or not she knows it, she is the strongest woman I know.

Diagnosed with a hole in the heart at birth, she has beaten the odds that she wouldn't survive her childhood.

At 16, she took a bus to the hospital carrying her little suitcase, she endured a surgery that had a ridiculously low survival rate, and she went on to have a career in the government.

She is relentless in the drive for my sister and I to be happy and be the best at what we do; she is the reason we have never, not for one minute thought we couldn't do something because we were women.

'Make your own money, be financially independent of a man' is her (and to be fair my dad's) mantra.

One of my favourite memories of her is marching up to the bar at an Indian wedding, past all the gobsmacked men, and ordering a double whisky because someone told her that apparently it wasn't seemly for women to drink alcohol.

As strong a woman as my mother is, there were some things she couldn't quite protect me from - and that's because some of gender inequality isn't always obvious as the bruises on a woman's face, or the loud catcall that rings through the street.

A lot of it is wrapped so fluidly around society like an octopus that sometimes it is hard to spot - objectification, self worth, unconscious bias, body image standards - and a lot of it is so ludicrous we can't believe it still exists - unequal pay, and gender disparity in every career, especially at the top.

I was born in a generation that didn't really protest. I didn't have to trudge in the snow at 5am, I have a thousand options open to me about how to live my life because my mother battled through it for me- both as a woman and as an immigrant.

But now I find myself - slightly shamefacedly because it took this long - about to embark on my first ever march.

In truth, it was actually Sophie Walker's rousing vlog that did it.

It was her words about change happening when all women are being seen and heard. For me, as a woman of colour, it is so important to be seen. My mother and women like her didn't really have the luxury of protesting - the issue of race and survival far outweighed that.

But I do.

Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot that needs to be done with the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities in Britain - if you think the female pay gap is a travesty, then hold onto your socks because BAME people face a 10% pay deficit across all industries.

But the reason it has taken me this long to join a march is because people from my mother's background and generation didn't. It's not that I wasn't inspired or incensed when I saw gender inequality, but genuinely, I didn't know what I could change by doing so.

What I've come to realise is that it's not really about Trump. He's the President-elect of a country that isn't my own and nothing I do will change that.

For me, it's about two things.

It's about telling little girls - who will learn about this in history classes in years to come - that we weren't okay with it. That women wanted their basic rights and values as human beings acknowledged, and that the election of Trump and the continuing disparity in female representation in every industry, at every level in the UK, is evidence that this is still happening.

But the second, and perhaps this is closer to home, is that it's about honouring my mother and the struggles she went through to give us a better life. And it's about representing my female Asian community because, as silly as it sounds, you won't know you can do something until you see someone like you doing it.

It's so when my niece Leela grows up, she won't hesitate to lace her boots up and march because she's already seen me do it.

Because there will come a day when the generation we are raising now, will become the leaders that will shape the world. And our actions now, in how we respond to this, will influence and inform the people they become.

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