“We march today and think of Aiia,” the writer Bri Lee told more than 3,000 people at the Sydney Women’s March on Sunday.
The coordinated worldwide protests, held in dozens of major cities, sought to highlight an extensive patchwork of women’s rights issues.
The Australian event, in Sydney’s Hyde Park, was dominated by demands that women be made safe, following the alleged murder of international student Aiia Maasarwe.
Lee, a sexual assault survivor, said women need “anger to survive, but hope to strategise”.
“It is so, so hard to keep an olive branch in the palm of your hand when you need your keys between your fingers,” Lee told the crowd.
Presenter and campaigner Yumi Stynes said Australia’s culture of violence against women was a crisis.
“It’s rooted in a widespread cultural acceptance that the values, the roles and the rights of women are lesser than those of men,” Stynes told the crowd.
“Women have the right to be safe. To claim our space, to be respected and to have our voices heard.”
Several women held homemade signs paying tribute to Maasware, as the crowd chanted for “safe streets” on the march from Hyde Park to Belmore Park.
Claire Hocking, who attended the rally with her husband and their two children, said she wanted her two-year-old daughter Maya to know women’s rights were important.
This is the third women’s march for Maya, and the first for three-month-old Franklin.
“She’s our future and he’s our future, he’s a man of tomorrow,” Hocking said.
Hocking said she marched for equality, “making sure [Maya] has every opportunity that my husband did or my son will have”.
And when it comes to fairytales and Disney stories “where the man always comes in to save her, I want her to know she doesn’t need a man to save her, she can be the dragon”, Hocking said.