‘It felt like such a positive day’, said one of the singers in the group. ‘We did something to stand against domestic violence and cuts to women’s services. But we also had a lot of fun, giving out flowers to women and encouraging people to listen and smile’.

International Women’s Day is marked by women around the world with parties, protests and exhibitions. It is a bitter-sweet day of honouring and strengthening the struggles of women for equality, safety and justice and also celebrating women – our achievements, our talents, our sense of community and our big hearts.

For International Women’s Day 2015, singers at the Tuesday night My Heart Sings singing circle visited Dalston in Hackney, East London.We sang at Ridley Road Market, Gillett Square, Dalston Junction Station and finished at Eastern Curve Garden.

We partnered with locally-based women’s organisation Latin American Women’s Aid (LAWA). LAWA provide important refuge and advice services to women and children experiencing domestic violence, focussing on the needs of women from Latin American and other Black and Minority Ethnnic backgrounds. LAWA are facing huge cuts in their funding from Islington council which would result of the closure of the refuge in Islington. The suggestion that LAWA’s refuge does not provide ‘value for money’ undermines the importance of culturally-specific, sometimes life-saving services for women who may find there are barriers to accessing mainstream services. We sang songs of togetherness, justice and hope while staff and volunteers from LAWA had a chance to collect petition signatures and talk to women and men passing by about their work.

If you would like to support the SaveLAWARefuge campaign, please sign the petition here and donate to their emergency fund here

At Ridley Road market we met up with Emashi African Dance, invited to the market by Andrea and Dalston Organisers. Ngozi and her singer and drummer friends led us in singing some hope-and-energy-filled spirituals – the clapping and dancing drew the attention of women traders from behind their stalls!

The singers also did a solidarity collection amongst ourselves to support both LAWA’s emergency fund and a women’s organisation in Palestine.

Thank you to everyone who took part – LAWA staff and volunteers for partnering with us, Zak and Rich who came along to film and take photos, Andrea, Emashi African Dance and Dalston Organisers and Eastern Curve Garden for the tea and coffee at the end of the day.

And singers! Many of you had not sung in public before. You were incredible. You are all amazing, courageous women (and children).

Here are some photos – thanks to Day, Gabriela and Rich for these:

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