Hundreds of people gathered across the Island for the second annual Women’s March Saturday.
Folks of all ages, genders and backgrounds rallied in Victoria’s Centennial Square before marching down Government Street to the legislature in both a celebration and a protest. BC Green Party leader Elizabeth May addressed a crowd carrying signs that read, “women’s rights are human rights” and “this is not an ovary action” to congratulate and thank organizers.
Hundreds more gathered in Courtenay to “rise against gendered violence as part of a global movement recognizing women’s rights as human rights.”
The group – women, joined by men and children – met at the Courtenay courthouse and marched through the downtown core.
And still more in Nanaimo took to the streets in support of women and women’s rights and equality, starting at Diana Krall Plaza and ending up at Maffeo Sutton Park.
“We are so empowered by the numbers, the diversity, the strength of the movement,” said Lauren Semple, event MC, at a rally at the park. “We want each of you to know that whatever brought you here today, in whatever clothing, with whatever sign, we hear you, we see you and we love you.”
Ashwak Sirri, chairwoman of Equal Voice Central Vancouver Island, said she was there to support women who have experienced abuse, violence, discrimination and disrespect, and to support the women who speak up about those issues.
“Discrimination, abuse and exploitation of women is not just in Hollywood and the entertainment world. It is everywhere, in every industry, in every community, and definitely in our community,” Sirri said. “This is a human issue and it must be solved as a collective, not in fragments.”
Lesley Clarke, executive director of the Nanaimo Women’s Centre, said ideas that women have achieved equality and have opportunities to participate equally in social, economic, political and cultural realms are myths.
“For some of us, this is a new awakening and for others, this is old knowing,” she said. “When we march, when we we sing, when we utter the words ‘me too’ … we challenge the mythology.”
Shalema Gantt, president of the Nanaimo African Heritage Society, said it’s important for people to carry forward the messages from Saturday’s march.
“What you guys are today is beautiful,” she said. “But we need to take this from here today and take it out there tomorrow. Ask questions. Open your mouth. Talk. Speak. Be heard.”
This year’s Victoria organizer Cayla Naumann said it’s really easy to look at the U.S. and point fingers when it comes to equality, representation, safety and economic security, Naumann says, but there are still a lot of the same problems facing women in Canada as well.
She calls the march an opportunity for people in Greater Victoria to come together to show support and raise awareness of some of those issues.
“Feminism gets a lot of criticism for being a white women’s movement,” Naumann says. “Indigenous women, disabled groups, women of colour, other gender backgrounds – we need to continue to include women from these backgrounds into the movement.”
— with files from the Victoria News and Comox Valley Record