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experiencing a women’s day march


Covered in sweat and tears, we shouted loudly and proudly as we repeated the chants “Wanita bangkit!” and “Hidup wanita!”, a literal translation of “Women rise!” and “Live women!” in Bahasa Malaysia. The morning of March 9th was an emotional and thought-provoking time; slogans and placards flashed at every public citizen so that our opinions could be captured and voices could be heard. As we marched on the busiest streets of Kuala Lumpur on one of the busiest days, we naturally attracted a lot of attention to our purpose and had a chance to stand up for what we believe in.

汗と涙にまみれながら、私たちはマレー語で「Wanita bangkit!(女性が立ち上がる!)」「Hidup wanita!(女性として生きる!)」と、大声で誇らしげにチャントを繰り返し叫びました。3月9日の朝は、感情的で考えさせられる時間でした。私たちの意見を捉え、想いが届くように、多くのスローガンとプラカードが市民全員に向けてられました。クアラルンプールの一番混んでいる道路をマーチしていたとき、私たちは自分のたちの目的に数多くの注目を集め、私たちの信念に立ち向かう機会を得ることでが来ました。

This was my first time participating in a rally. I decided to partake in this movement because it was where my opinion mattered and where I could be a part of something that was bigger than myself. Participating in the rally and listening to stories told by representatives from different organizations made me contemplate on many things about my perception towards minorities, specifically indigenous people, disabled people, and immigrants whose lives would have been more difficult if everyone had turned their backs on them.


I’ve read so many stories about gropers, perverts, and cat-callers who think that it is okay to publicly harass women simply because they think of women as vulnerable and passive creatures. Even in my own country, I have also been discriminated against as a woman and as a Muslim. I have been honked at, whistled at and cat-called just by being in public spaces. I couldn’t go backpacking alone because it was deemed dangerous for women and I could be kidnapped or raped. As a Muslim, I have even been criticized among my Muslim peers for not behaving as a modest traditional Muslim girl who avoids hedonistic or radical thinking, and for not dressing in a conservative manner that obscures my body shape. Conversely, If I was in a non-Muslim country, I would be called profanities for being a woman and wearing a hijab. As a Muslim woman, I often feel scared because of Islamophobia and humiliated by the stereotypes associated with being a woman. I am not capable of ensuring my own safety or walking down any street without the thought of being threatened or instigating an uncomfortable situation. Because of this, I developed a passive attitude where I would resort to lowering my gaze when I’m in public places because, for my safety, I refuse to attract attention.


*ヒジャブ = アラビア語で「覆うもの」を意味する名詞。イスラム教徒の女性が頭や身体を覆う布を指して使われることが多い。

Patriarchal values have been instilled in Malaysian culture for such a long time that we have become accustomed to think that a woman’s role is to get married and disregard their self aspirations. These deep-rooted traditional values were apparent when representatives from the rally took the pedestal bench and began sharing their stories and experiences. Several of the representatives spoke about individuals with mental and/or physical disabilities who had been abused by their guardians. Those individuals were taught not to speak up against their guardians because it would mean that shelter and food will be taken away from them. Some unfortunate victims had never received any proper education nor given the means to reach out for help. There were stories about refugees or undocumented immigrants who risked their lives to find better job opportunities elsewhere. These people were usually without a visa which made it difficult for them to be employed; sometimes single mothers with a family to provide for had to turn to prostitution for money. In doing so, they became pawns to businesses run by opportunistic predators who prey on vulnerable people, most of these victims being women. These women were deprived of healthcare, pensions and benefits that would have ensured a secure future for their families. In all honesty, I used to be prejudiced against sex workers. I thought job opportunities are everywhere and wondered why they would turn to such a degrading vocation. Being part of this rally has allowed me to self-reflect on my own preconceptions about sex workers. I came to the realization that these women fought hard for their rights and that I am in no position to discriminate against them regardless of whether they pursue it by choice.


At times I felt overwhelmed as I realized how oblivious I was about the world around me. The compelling stories and painful experiences that I heard at the rally inspired me to keep fighting and defend what I believe in and taught me that we all have the choice to make a difference, no matter how big or small. Apart from fighting for equal rights, the march celebrated the history of the women’s movement and reminded us that the women’s movement started with our right to vote. It also commemorated those who have fallen victim to oppression.


So fellow 21st century suffragists and suffragettes, as our past sisters and brothers who have fought for equal rights, let us carry on the legacy to lead and improve our current situation. Let us band together to disseminate hope, justice, equality, restore our dignity and banish the patriarchy and oppressive organizations that underestimate our strength and our equal potential to thrive.


Images by Iylani

Illustrations by Lola Rose

Edited by Eli and Kiara

Japanese Translated by Hikari

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