Mridul Wadhwa on giving a voice to marginalised women

As part of our #Vote100 Project, SNP activist Mridul Wadhwa writes about the women that inspire her in her activism for the most marginalised communities of women.

As a young trans woman in India, I remember Oprah Winfrey flashing across my screen speaking about issues that no one around me was talking about – issues of violence against women, sexual violence and domestic abuse. She did so as a black woman and gave a voice to those who, it is quite clear to me now, were voiceless in her country.

That inspiration is one of the reasons why I have worked with marginalised communities of women for a long time. As a trans and migrant woman, my activism is about ensuring that migrant and trans women’s issues are on the table on an equal footing when policy is formulated. I want to ensure that we are not an afterthought or looked on with pity, and that we are not invited to the table long after discussions and policies have been made and planned.

My main activism has been around the issue of no recourse to public funds that denies access to migrant women in need of safety. Having had no recourse to public funds myself, I feel it is that memory that motivates me, and seeing other women returning to their abuser because they are being denied access to things that most of us take for granted. We are rendered faceless and seen purely as our passports or where we come from. We as immigrant women contribute so much more to the society that we live in whether it is from the colour we bring in our clothes or the activism we bring about what women rights should be.

We have to celebrate diverse forms of activism. It shouldn’t just be those who stand for election and get elected who are acknowledged. There are people behind the scenes, knocking on doors, stuffing letters, supporting candidates – all of this needs to be celebrated. When I stood in the local council elections last year, most of those who helped me and egged me on were women. I think it is important to tell the stories of all of the different women, and the activism that goes on behind the scenes.

In terms of being active politically, it is harder. For women to even be considered as electable, they have to show a lot more in terms of their achievements than our male counterparts, who often take their privilege and power for granted. As an individual, and as women, there is not always an understanding, or even a recognition, of the demands on our lives and our caring responsibilities, and how that renders our time inflexible and impacts on our ability to be active politically.

For that and many more reasons, Alison Thewliss MP is currently my heroine. What she has done to bring out and highlight the cruel Tory policies is remarkable.  She is inspirational in her quiet and dogged way, but what she did in exposing the rape clause for what it is, is massive. She has mobilised thousands of women – certainly in Scotland, against what this policy stands for. She is my woman of the hour.

Mridul Wadhwa is an SNP member and human rights activist based in Edinburgh.