St. John’s will join a long list of communities around the world Saturday with a rally at city hall to support the Women’s March on Washington.
The massive march in the U.S. capital is expected to bring hundreds of thousands of people together this weekend in response to the election of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, whose behaviour in the leadup to the election left a lot of people on edge — not only in the U.S., but around the world. The rapidly growing women-led movement aims to protect “our rights, our safety, our health, and our families, recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country,” its website states.
“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us: immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, native people, black and brown people, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual assault. Our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.”
As protesters take a stand in Washington Saturday, cities across Canada and around the world are joining in with sister marches. In St. John’s, the effort is being led by Elisabeth de Mariaffi, Caroline Clarke and Lynn Moore, with support from the St. John’s Status of Women Council and InclusionNL.
The reaction to events in the U.S. was truly global, de Mariaffi said.
“There was this really immediate reaction, which is we must stand up and do something here, before we lose so much more,” said the author, whose collection of short stories “How to Get Along with Women” was longlisted for the Giller Prize. “Because it already felt like not just the loss of an election, but the loss of all the gains that had been made in terms of women’s rights and human rights in the last 100 years. So it’s just an essential moment to push back.”
She said it is frightening that close to 50 per cent of U.S. voters supported a candidate who “openly brags about sexually assaulting women” — something she said was stunning for women to watch unfold.
“But there were so many moments like that. There were so many moments in terms of racism and anti-immigration and anti-Muslim (rhetoric),” she said.
“The denigration of human rights we saw was not restricted to women’s rights.”
She said Saturday’s rally at city hall is for everyone.
“If we start from the starting point of women’s rights are human rights, then you can see that we are here actually to defend all human rights in this march. So the march is open to everyone, and it is in defence of everyone’s rights. There’s no question,” she said.
Along with showing solidarity with Americans, sister marches across Canada will work toward local and global goals.
“It is wholly about protecting and defending what we have here in Canada and making sure that all our politicians of all stripes from all parties understand that we will not be pushed back, and we will not be pushed down that road,” she said.
Additionally, she said there’s an opportunity to change the way women’s rights are approached on a global level.
A local call to action will be made at the St. John’s rally, too. De Mariaffi said this province has a lot to work on: along with a high incidence of domestic violence, Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest gender wage gap in the country and the second-highest child-care costs in the country.
“You need to add those things together. You look at the fact that women are earning less, but paying more for child care. We also have far fewer regulated child-care spots, far fewer subsidies. So these things added together really make for an incredibly uneven playing field,” she said.
Speakers at the St. John’s rally include Amelia Reimer, Lynn Moore, Aduei Riak and Joanne MacDonald. Julia Halfyard will lead everyone in a song, and lyric sheets will be provided, including in large print and braille. Jumping Bean is donating coffee.
The rally is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. outdoors at city hall; the event will move inside to the Foran Room in the case of inclement weather.
Visit the Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/1430829900277852/