Fiery, Fierce women unite human rights causes and give them a “woman’s touch”.
Martin Luther King once said “We have all come in different ships, but we are in the same boat now”. Renowned for his enigmatic speech and civil rights activism, King became the embodiment of fighting against injustice.
Nearly fifty-four years after King on the 21 January 2017, following his words on solidarity, women across the United States came together in the largest day of demonstrations U.S history has ever seen. Differences aside, they all stood together with the knowledge that “defending the most marginalised among us is defending all of us”.
The original idea for the demonstration came from a Facebook event page created by retired attorney Teresa Shook and then a grassroots movement formed in response to Trumps inauguration. Disheartened by Trumps destructive rhetoric during his campaign; she wanted to "send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights ". In vibrant, energetic and determined demonstrations organised by a national committee and attended by one million people in Washington DC alone and hundreds of thousands of women, men and children across the US, the organisers of Women’s March managed to unite human rights causes and give them a “woman’s touch”. Supporting women, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability, the organisations mission statement reads “We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities… We work peacefully while recognising there is no true peace without justice and equity for all”.
Since its initial march (a nod towards Kings own march in 1963) supported worldwide by 168 sister marches in over 81 countries, Women’s March has built on its success and has organised a follow up campaign: 10 Actions in the first 100 Days. The aim is to raise awareness from local levels upwards about an issue on their agenda every ten days to keep the momentum going. Communities are encouraged to communicate with their local governments to talk about what improvements they want to see. On March 8, Women’s March is organising “A day without a Woman” which is set to coincide with International Women’s Day, to show the integral part that every woman, no matter what background, has on society and that they cannot be repressed.
But what does Women’s March mean to women? It stands as a beacon of hope and encouragement that women will not be judged by what they are, but embraced for who they are. It means that they are present and want to be heard against policies set to keep women down and brush them aside. Feminist and activist Gloria Steinem in a keynote speech on Independence Avenue SW, summarised Women’s March goal. She commented “Our constitution does not begin with “I, the President”. It begins with, “We, the People”. I am proud to be one of thousands who have come to Washington to make clear that we will keep working for a democracy in which we are linked as human beings, not ranked by race or gender or class or any other label”. The fact that when Shook created the
Facebook page, the responses skyrocketed from 40 to over 10,000 over a night’s sleep proved that women were ready to take on the challenge of defending women’s rights alongside Steinem.
Women’s March stands as a symbol of the power of the people. It serves as a commonplace for every woman to come and express to her government how she expects to be treated. It’s a single platform with an explosion of angles determined to address not only gender inequality but also racial, economic and religious discrimination and inequality. It is ending police brutality, racial profiling, and violence against women. It means reproductive freedom in terms of support for abortion and affordable birth control over having the right to bodily autonomy taken away. It continues Obama’s plans for improvements in transgender healthcare. It supports families, LGBTQ communities and minority communities, immigrants and environmental justice. It is an umbrella organisation held together by strong, powerful and proud women who will not let a misogynistic president torment them and their children’s futures.
Women’s March has had a massive impact in terms of human rights awareness too. Endorsed by countless celebrities including America Ferrera, Scarlett Johansson and Alicia Keys to name a few; it has brought human rights- and women’s rights into the eye of the media storm. It shows the power of the media in organising and reaching out to communities. Making history in its sheer enormity of demonstrations, with worldwide participation at about 5 million, it was more than just an American Anti- Donald Trump Protest. It was the definition of solidarity, of all boats coming together in one enormous ship, driven by women of every character.
The unification of advocacy and activist organisations for this campaign shows that the human rights world is united in its goals. Women’s March is supported by Black Women Vote, Feminist Majority Foundation, Jewish Women International, VotoLatino and a host of pro-women, pro-equality, pro-justice organisations worldwide. As well as national unification, there is a growing international consensus between women and supporters of women’s rights that they will not allow themselves to be discriminated against, repressed, shushed, grabbed or told that they are only half as good. While Washington was the epicentre, the impact of the Women’s March on the world in terms of human rights activism was and still is immeasurable.
It seems the key to the success of this campaign is the celebration of the diversity and inclusivity of its advocates and followers, with numbers too large to ignore. Ferrera, Chair of the Artists Table of Women’s March on Washington mentioned the importance of alignment in her speech, she stated: “If we – the millions of Americans who believe in common decency, in the greater good, in justice for all – if we fall into the trap by separating ourselves by our causes and our labels, then we will weaken our fight and we will lose. But if we commit to what aligns us, if we stand together steadfast and determined, then we stand a chance of saving the soul of our country”. This can be read in a global perspective too. And that is the magic of Women’s March, its goals are not country or group specific. It has every woman’s best interests at heart, not just American women, and they express this constantly. While it is based in the United States, it has encouraged women across the world to raise their voice.
At the end of his iconic speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC in 1963, Martin Luther King said: “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead.
We cannot turn back”. And in 2017, Women’s March is echoing his words, and this voice for women is speaking to every single one of us.