By KASEY MCDONNELL
After a chaotic campaign in which racial and gender politics took the centre stage, groups of activists across the world have been sending messages this weekend that women’s rights are human rights.
Women’s March on Washington, an event designed to stand up for women’s rights after the results of the 2016 US Election, inspired New Zealanders on Saturday to show solidarity and support women’s rights here at home. The marches held in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin were set to coincide with President Trump’s inauguration into the Oval Office.
According to Women’s March on Washington, the ultimate goal was to show the incoming administration that the number of marginalised races and genders is too big to ignore. As well as showing the numbers of marginalised groups affected by public policy, Women’s March wanted to promote their policy priorities for women and minorities.
Their policy priorities, or ‘Unifying Principles’, include basic civil rights and environmental justice, as well as rights for marginalised groups such as immigrants, LGBTQIA communities and disabled peoples.
The organisers of the March on Washington insist that the marches are fighting to affirm women’s rights rather than be anti-Trump, but given the context (click if you dare) of the President’s stances on women and minorities during the 2016 campaign, the marches will likely be seen as symbolically against Trump.
Marchers in Wellington arrived on Parliament grounds and marched to Civic Square to affirm the same principles and rights for women across the world. For marchers, maintaining basic rights to health and ensuring true equality of genders were among the most important issues of the event.
Hundreds of Wellingtonians and Aucklanders showed up for the marches to show their support, and a further 400 people attended in Christchurch and Dunedin. According to Women’s March on Washington, New Zealand marchers were among an estimated 1.3 million “Sister Marchers” in 616 participating cities worldwide.
At the Wellington march, Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter was among the speakers, after the Green Party caucus members refused to congratulate Trump on his victory late last year. Speakers involved in the rally before the march stressed the importance of maintaining democratic values and protecting rights during the new administration.
The March on Washington and across the world comes at a rocky start to President Trump’s term in office. Before the President was elected, controversy spiralled about potential ties to Russia and various conflicts of interest. In Trump’s first day in office, he signed an executive order for government officials to “ease the burdens” of Obamacare while Congress begins the process of repealing the law.
It is still unclear what effect the marches will have on the newly appointed administration.
“I lived in D.C. for about five years and I know friends there, and it’s kind of scary to think that [Donald Trump] could have such a big influence on the world and people like me. I think [equal pay] is a big thing, and I don’t understand why it’s not [already equal].”
“There was absolutely no choice to do otherwise. Even if there wasn’t one in Wellington, we were going to make our own and just walk down the street… In terms of women’s rights, I’m going to have to say pro-choice [is an important issue], and specifically in America saving Planned Parenthood. As soon as you take away a women’s right to choose, you take away her freedom.” – Chantal
“I feel like in the US they are pulling back so many issues for everybody: for women, for Black Lives Matter, for gay and lesbian people. I feel like we are trying to pull it back from the Stone Age so that we can continue progressing the way we were.” – Jimmy
“I came for my daughter, she’s six years old. I think it’s really important that we stand up for our rights as women and human beings, and that we stand up for each other. We all deserve equal care under the law, we all deserve to love whoever we want, we all deserve healthcare. To say that we don’t want any immigrants any more is essentially kicking us all out, which doesn’t make any sense.”
“I think it’s important that women are able to make decisions about their own bodies, and I think that is applicable here in New Zealand as well. We can’t let men and politicians decide what is best for us when it is a case by case basis.”