'YOU CAN stick Loaded magazine up your arse!' 'What do we want? Liberation!' That's what 600 students chanted as they marched for women's rights through the streets of east London on Wednesday of last week.
The march was organised by the NUS Women's Campaign. It went through east London in order to mark 100 years of struggles by working class women. It went through the areas of the great match girls' strike of 1888 and the dockers' strike of 1889, and where the socialist and suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst organised working class women. 'Sexist shit, no way! What do we want? Equal pay!' went the chants.
There were delegations from colleges across London, as well as from further afield, like Wales, Manchester, Sheffield, Cambridge, Sussex and other places. Jo, a first year student, said, 'A lot of people think you don't have to fight for women's rights any more. You do. We want childcare and equal pay. Plus we want an end to homophobia and racism.' Her friend Katharina said, 'What makes me angry is the sense that the whole question is forgotten. It's not settled. We need to keep fighting on.'
The march was mainly women but there was no hostility to the large number of men present. And for the demonstrators there was no separation between the fight against sexism and the fight for free education. May from the University of East London said, 'I'm here because at the end of my education I will have £12,000 of debt. I have got two kids. I am not impressed. I'm a mature student, and as you get older debts get harder to pay off. Childcare is what I am interested in, and when I go back to work I want to earn equal money.'
Speakers at the rally included Liz Davies of the Labour Party national executive and Sheila Rowbotham, Lynne Segal and Hilary Wainwright - three leading socialist feminists. All of them were cheered to the rafters when they ridiculed fashionable talk in the media about how women have 'made it' and how we now live in a 'postfeminist' society. Lecturer Mary Davis also spoke about the life of Sylvia Pankhurst. She stressed how Sylvia Pankhurst was a socialist who broke from her other two sisters when they campaigned in support of the First World War.
The NUS Women's Campaign now plans a demonstration outside the Miss World final, which is being held at Olympia in London on 4 December. A conference is also planned on 29 January 2000 to mark 30 years since the launch of the women's liberation movement of the 1970s.
LEEDS UNIVERSITY students protested inside a graduate recruitment fair organised by the private company AIESEC on Monday of this week. They objected to the presence of arms dealing companies GKN and Marconi, safety cutter Railtrack, and anti-union retail chain John Lewis.
Police were called to stop the students handing out leaflets exposing these companies. But the students managed to continue leafleting. As one of the protesters said, 'Students on other campuses should be on the lookout for similar events and should also call protests.'