DISMAL weather did not dampen the spirits of those gathered on the steps of Parliament House on Friday March 5 to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Despite the slight drizzle, a crowd of about 50 people danced and sang in a show of support for international students.
Cheerful orange balloons were flown, bearing the slogan “Everyone Belongs”.
Organised by the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition (VIRWC), the March for Harmony was led by female international students who wanted to celebrate their life in Victoria.
Chairwoman of VIRWC, Jeanette Hourani, said the march was not a fight for women’s rights.
“The purpose is to bring solidarity to women and to celebrate female international students who have the right to be here,” Ms Hourani said.
“We are drawing on the positive experiences of women in Australia.”
Addressing the throng of supporters outside Parliament House, Raman Bhullar, an international student from India, said she believed Melbourne was the “best place for women in terms of career, study and making a life”.
“There is a huge difference in the way women live in India. Many women are expected to stay in the house and do housework,” Ms Bhullar said.
“Coming here lets you see what you could have been missing out on if you had not come.”
In a true display of cultural diversity, part of the program included a riveting belly dance, as well as a Bollywood dance performance by former international student Amandeep Kaur.
Ms Kaur, now a young mother, brought her toddler along to the event. Her friends looked after the child, as she shimmied and stamped her feet to the rhythm of the music.
Ms Kaur first got involved with the VIRWC when she came to Melbourne three years ago as an international student from India.
“This is a really good organization, because it is for women and for international students,” she said.
“Whenever I have any problems, I come directly to Melba [VIWRC’s executive director] and she will show me the solution.”
Ms Kaur shared her experiences as an international student in Melbourne, and what it was like taking on part-time work for the first time.
“Sometimes it was hard, because I never did any jobs in India,” she said.
“But it was still really good. Here I can work, I can do anything… I don’t have to ask my husband to give me money,” she laughed.
The event drew to a jubilant close as the crowd joined Ms Kaur for more dancing.