THE BLOG

Why The Women's March Should Matter To Us All

18/01/2017 16:31 GMT | Updated 18/01/2017 16:32 GMT
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When Donald Trump is sworn in as US President on Friday 20 January, it will be the culmination of a campaign that has traded in division and fear.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic the Brexit vote has coincided with a rise in recorded hate crime in the UK and risks undoing recent progress in women's rights.

In this climate of growing intolerance, it is more important than ever for those of us who believe in equality to stand up and be counted.

This is what the Women's March is all about.

On Saturday, the day after Trump's inauguration, women and men will come together in Washington, DC to reassert their values and reject the divisive rhetoric that helped propel him to power. At the same time, over 600 sister marches will take place worldwide, including one in London where I'll be among 22,000 people expected to converge on Grosvenor Square at noon.

As a charity that works to ensure women and girls are treated the same as men and boys, Equality Now is proud to be taking part in this global celebration of democracy and diversity. We have to make sure our governments know women's rights are something to be promoted and respected.

The Women's March is not an anti-Trump movement, rather, it is part of a continuum of women around the world standing up for their rights, which are increasingly at risk.

In Poland, 30,000 people took to the streets in October to protest against a proposed ban on abortion, while women in Latin America demonstrated against impunity for those who rape and murder teenage girls.

Here in the UK, hard-won improvements in equal pay, parental leave and protection from discrimination need to be preserved in the wake of Brexit.

That's because gender equality, while it has never been fully realised, is one of the European Union's core aims. Once Britain leaves, the lack of minimum standards to abide by could allow the Government to chip away at existing protections. We need to remind the Government these rights are not negotiable.

For women from ethnic minority groups, the charged political climate can be doubly harmful. Cases of racially or religiously aggravated crime in England and Wales jumped 41% year-on-year in the month after the EU referendum. And the number of reported anti-Muslim attacks in public places rose by 326% in 2015 according to monitoring group Tell MAMA, with the bulk of them against women.

In the face of so many threats to our human rights, the time has come to push back. We need to draw a line in the sand, to reassert why equality for all is so important.

And while it's easy to feel powerless, the story of how the Women's March came about shows how one person can make an incredible difference.

It began with a simple question on Facebook by a retired lawyer in Hawaii. Disturbed by the result of the presidential election, Teresa Shook wondered what would happen if women marched on Washington around Inauguration Day en masse. After asking friends to help her set up an event page, she went to bed - and woke the next day to find 10,000 women already on board.

Now, in an inspiring example of the power of grassroots activism, the march has grown into what may well prove one of America's biggest ever protests. More than 200,000 people - men included - are expected to turn out, with simultaneous rallies across all 50 states and in over 50 countries including France, Kenya, Iraq and Israel.

With so much support from around the world, I'm confident we can put pressure on our governments to do the right thing and adhere to the international human rights conventions that most of them have signed up to.

It's time for all of us who share these values to come together and make our voices heard.

About Equality Now:

Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world by combining grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy. An international network of lawyers, activists, and supporters achieve legal and systemic change by holding governments responsible for enacting and enforcing laws and policies that end legal inequality, sexual trafficking, sexual violence, and Female Genital Mutilation.

Equality Now is one of the partner organisations for the Washington March and has supporters attending marches in London and Los Angeles.

For more information about Equality Now's ongoing campaigns go to www.equalitynow.org.