In case you were living under a rock for most of January you can’t fail to have noticed the success of the Women’s March. On January 21st millions of marchers all around the world gathered together in peaceful protest and to get their voices heard on a whole spectrum of causes: women’s rights, reproductive rights, gender equality, violence, LGBT rights, workers rights, civil rights, immigrant rights, and on and on.
It was a day of dedication, determination and, even in a weird way, celebration. And that dogged determination hasn’t dissipated now that a couple of months has passed. In fact, if anything the desire to make a difference has merely ramped up following the success of the Women’s March.
“Now is not the time to hang up our marching shoes,” the Women’s March organisers posted on their website. “It’s time to get our friends, family and community together and make history.”
So what’s next for the movement? Yahoo Style UK spoke exclusively to one of the Women’s March Organiser’s for London on the eve of International Women’s Day to find out how we keep the momentum going…
What made you want to get involved in the Women’s March?
I became involved in the Women’s March because I was upset and frustrated by the divisions that have split our country and the growth of hate and bigotry. Trump’s election was terrifying. My son told me that I was old and very privileged, with a lot of knowledge and skills and I should give something back. So I became involved because every parent wants their child to inherit a better planet and to live in a caring and compassionate society.
Were you surprised about the success of the women’s march globally?
It was very early apparent how global this movement was, London was the first country to hold a sister march and within a few days marches started to spring up in other European cities, then Australia. As word spread on social media, more and more countries started to organise their own events. It was particularly exciting when new continents joined and also to link up with India. Even Antartica held a march. We kept spreading the message on social media that this was a global movement – not just about what was happening in the USA – and people taking part would be part of something really historic. It came at the right time for people who were fed up with selfish and self righteous politicians and they felt it was time to stand up and be counted. However I don’t think when we started we would have imagined that 5 million people would be marching!
How did you feel on the day seeing so many women gathered together fighting for their rights?
It was amazing to wake up and see all the pictures of people who’d already marched in Australia and New Zealand. As we were getting ready in London, marches were happening all over Asia. In London we had hoped that there would be 50,000 – we could see the numbers growing as the date approached. We had no idea that we would have over 100,000. The police estimated there were 100,000 but from the drone footage it looked more like 200,000. That’s one of the largest marches to have taken place in London in the last ten years.
It was incredible to see so many people of both genders on the march – from babies to pensioners. We had wanted the march to be a positive experience – a celebration of different people with different issues all coming together in a safe space. No one wanted the day to end.
What did you hope would come out of the march overall?
We wanted the march to be a show of strength – that people were not alone – and by standing together in solidarity we can achieve so much more together
We also wanted people to feel empowered – that this was just the first step in activism and they could now take action in their own local communities. And to show the authorities that they have to start listening to the people. We are watching and we will not let the politics of hate and fear divide our country. However, real change will only come when people can get offline and into the real world; start to connect and talk face to face about their differences and how to bridge those divides.
What do you have planned next?
We’ve not stopped since organising the strike. We are calling for people to support 10 days in 100 actions. These are targeted actions: We’ve asked people to form “huddles” : these are small activist groups that anyone can start up to take action in their local communities. We’re working on training and resources for activism with existing activist groups.
The next action will be ‘A Day without a Woman’ on International Women’s Day
We are also working on a really exciting grass roots based initiative for the summer with some truly inspiring collaborators and major cultural institutions and we’re hoping to announce that later in March, once we have finalised more details.
One thing we are already planning is the “Great Get together” which we are very excited about. We are organising a huge picnic in London the weekend (June 18-19) and are encouraging everyone to get behind it. Its a fantastic chance to create a horizontal space to bring together lots of diverse communities and sit down and talk.
Tell us a little about ‘A Day Without A Woman’?
A day without a woman is an action designed to show how much women contribute to the economy. There are a variety of actions planned so everyone can take part at whatever level they feel able. The origins of the idea come from mass mobilisations last year in Argentina. The successful anti-abortion protest in Poland [In Poland, over 100,000 women protested a proposed national blanket ban on abortions by ditching school and work and wearing black on October 3 last year, a day that became known Black Monday] and of course the mass strike in Iceland [In 1975 90% of Icelandic women went on a nationwide strike to fight for equal rights.] Organisers of the international women strike are taking part in 35 countries. Here in the UK we are supporting the idea of a Day without a woman and we are calling for 3 actions.
- Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labour
- Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women-and-minority-owned businesses).
- Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman
Is there a main focus for protest on the strike day?
Across the world, women make up half the world’s working population but generate just 37% of global GDP (Oxfam report 2016). If gender gaps were closed, an additional $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025.
Here in the UK women’s work is undervalued – 6.3 million women work part time compared to 2.3 million men (source House of Commons report 2017). On average women earn 18% less than men. Women carry out 60% more unpaid work than men (source ONS Nov 2016), including cooking, childcare and housework.
We want to recognise the enormous vale that women of all backgrounds add to our system whilst receiving lower wages, experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment and job insecurity
Are there any hurdles you’ve faced in organising the strike?
We are asking people to participate at whatever level they can and recognise for many people they are not able to withdraw their labour. For us in the UK this is not a strike – it is a chance to show the importance of women’s work at every level.
Some women are unable to take part in the strike – single mothers, etc…how would you encourage them to still protest/get their voices heard?
Women have enormous spending and purchasing power. By 2018 it’s estimated that women will control 40 trillion dollars of global spending. (Boston consulting group sept 2013)
Here in the UK it’s estimated that 67% of household spending is controlled by women. Women are responsible for 83% of shopping purchases. They buy 93% of groceries, 92% of holidays, 96% beauty products, 60% of new cars, 55% home computers (source Gloria Moss, Buckingham University) So we are asking women to be able to use that power to not shop for one day – but instead to support women or locally owned businesses. And if that’s not possible then to wear red in solidarity and tell people on social media and face to face what you are doing and why.
What do you hope will be the outcome of the strike?
We hope that people will recognise that women are not going away after the women’s march. We will continue to protest and to organise. By coming together we show how powerful we are.
How in general do you want women to keep the fight going?
By joining in at whatever level they can. Joining a women’s march huddle to be able to act locally. Join larger protests and demonstrations. Join up with other groups. Writing to your MP and elected representatives. Boycotting businesses that don’t act ethically. Keep going and don’t give up. Protests are working. But most importantly to be able to empowered to take action. Our voices must be and will be heard.
Will you be taking part in ‘A Day Without A Woman’? Let us know @YahooStyleUK.