‘One thing I learnt from the march is that women can do so much amazing stuff together’: Bristol protest in solidarity with Polish women’s rights

On 2nd December 2020, Her Campus at Bristol was proud to co-host an online Letter Writing workshop in collaboration with Feminist Society and Amnesty International.

This event took place as part of the weekly Wednesday letter-writing series that Amnesty have been running online all term.

The purpose of this week’s letter-writing was to condemn the Polish government’s recent treatment of peaceful protestors. Protestors in Poland have been subject to police brutality in an attempt to suppress opposition, from using pepper spray to detaining peaceful protestors. These protestors have been advocating against the government ruling declaring abortion to be unconstitutional.

The recent abortion ruling, and subsequent treatment of protestors in Poland, is widely unknown here in the UK. Our online workshop provided Bristol students with an opportunity to take part in activism and stand up for a cause that we believe in.

There is a really sizeable Polish community here in the UK. The 2011 national census reported that Polish is the most widely spoken foreign language in the country, and here in the greater Bristol area the Polish community is over 30,000 strong. A peaceful protest took place here in Bristol in solidarity with Polish women’s rights on 1st November.

Our online workshop started off with a really powerful talk by one of the co-ordinators of the Bristol protest. We will call her Ania. Ania tries to avoid using her full name on the internet or on social media in order to avoid backlash against her activism.

The Bristol protest started outside the Polish Catholic Church in Stokes Croft. This was of huge symbolic importance for the protestors as the Church is very wrapped up in political decision-making in Poland and was deeply invested in declaring abortion to be unconstitutional. Ania recognises that making such as public statement against the Catholic Church’s autonomy is problematic to many people, but it is undeniable that the Catholic Church in Poland has had a large part to play in limiting abortion rights.

Reflecting on the power of the solidarity march here in Bristol, Ania commented, ‘One thing I learnt from the march is that women can do a lot of amazing stuff together’. 

She also noted that recent dissent against the abortion ruling has drawn together a really eclectic, diverse and powerful coalition of parts of Polish society who have previously not had much in common. Protestors against the abortion ruling in Poland have included men and women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, younger and older generations alike. Although this is a difficult time for women’s rights in Poland, it is also an exciting time for activists and the prospect of future protest looks hopeful. 

When asked for what advice she could give to young feminists and activists today, Ania concluded: ‘You are the future - you beautiful young faces - always trust yourselves and go for things that you believe in.’

Ania's galvanising words are inspiring and hopeful. As we get ready to face a new year, we could all reflect more on what change we want to see in the world and how we can make it happen.