Yesterday, January 21st, 2017, I joined the thousands and thousands of women, men and children across the world who walked in the almost 700 Women’s Marches around the globe. From Washington DC, where the March began, to The Hague, where I walked, and across all seven continents (That’s right! Two Sister Marches were registered in Antarctica as well) people came together and stood against misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, racism and primarily hate.
Following the chants of Love Trumps Hate and Women’s Rights Are Human Rights our voices and our signs arrived in front of the American Embassy in The Hague as the symbol of the new administration which took office just the day before yesterday amidst protests and dismay. But we knew that we were not just protesting one single event. The women and men at the March were protesting against all forms of discrimination and bigotry from restrictive reproduction laws across the world, to the systematic impunity for sexual abusers. But also to close the gender pay gap and break the glass ceilings that surmount us. We were protesting against institutionalised racism and tolerated homophobia. We were chanting for the freedom to practice any religion, or none at all, without fear of stigmatisation and retaliation. We were protesting with the LGBTQIA community for their right of being who they are and loving who they love.
The intersectionality of the March was evident and it is something to be proud of today. At a time when history is being whitewashed and we are thought to think in boxes, the Women’s March represented people as they really are in their beautiful complexity. The Unity Principles wrote by the founders outline precisely that when they address all the above-mentioned rights but also those of workers and people with disabilities and immigrants and, for the first time under the same cause, those of the environment. These principles were clear when looking at the crowd: amongst the many women and girls, there were also men with and without their partners and children. There were white people and people of colour, members of the LGBTQIA community, young and elderly people alike, Dutch and foreigners.
But without further action, this March will remain just that. A March.
Over the course of the past week, the Graduates of Democracy and its writers have shed light on some of the less-known people who have contributed to the feminist movement directly or by advancing feminist causes. Those individuals and many more have assisted the development that brought us here today. They helped the world to build a conscience of equality through literature, art, politics, activism, and etcetera and with different focuses. Some faced harsh criticism, some were forgotten, some even gave their life. But all of them persevered because they knew that the goal was much bigger than themselves.
Now it is our turn. This generation is filling the shoes of the giants that came before us and left us the inheritance of wisdom and the power of conviction to fight for what is right, just and fair. Days like today are part of a bigger picture and from where we stand we cannot yet see it all. But step by step we will get closer to the goal as many more will arise. History has stripped women of our value and voices, nevertheless, women have been fighting and are fighting today to change this narrative. A narrative that sees 62 million girls in the world forbidden primary education. A narrative in which 4 in 5 victims of human trafficking are women and 1 in 3 suffers physical or sexual violence. A narrative that occurs in the lives of transgender women killed at a rate of 5 per day. A narrative of eroticized lesbian couples, enslaved sex workers, and teenagers cyber-raped on Facebook. A narrative that protects Peacekeepers who commit sexual crimes on the very people they are mandated to safeguard, and worries more about a rapist’s future career than a victim’s present wellbeing and safety.
There is not place in the future for this narrative and today’s March was just the beginning. In the next four years in the United States, women will fight to maintain the rights they earned over the past Century. In Europe, we will have to hold our ground against the insurgence of far-right parties the threaten the safety and rights of our Muslim, Black, and Immigrant Sisters and Brothers as well as those of many more minorities. In the Middle East, women will continue to fight for their right to self-determination. In many developing countries they will stand for the notion that women own their bodies, their minds, their beliefs, their independence, their life.
If we come together in solidarity and embrace the intersectionality of feminism and equality, we can achieve gender parity. While each region, nation and community struggle differently and against different walls, the notion that we are all created equal needs to be a cornerstone of our movements. And with the principles of empathy and compassion in mind, we will say that we waited long enough and now is our time to walk.
Written by Cecilia Passaniti