This is a critical time. The results of the US elections and the appointments to the new administration have deep implications not only for the United States, but for the world. It’s on us to move forward and not back. #WhyIMarch
On 21 January, 2017, nearly 300,000 people are expected at the Women’s March on Washington – with thousands more participating in solidarity marches in major cities around the United States as well as an estimated 30 countries around the world.
I’m marching with my organization, Equality Now, a human rights organization dedicated to promoting the human rights of women and girls around the world. We’re partnering to demonstrate our commitment to holding strong to all the progress made on human rights and civil liberties in the United States and globally, and to holding the new US administration to account to protect and promote these rights.
President-elect Trump’s election campaign denigrated many people, including women, immigrants, Muslims, people of color, those with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault and members of the LGBTQ community. He bragged that he could sexually assault women without consequence and has vowed to strip women of their reproductive rights. All of this contributed to an atmosphere of fear, bigotry and intolerance and throughout the country, and could lower the bar on appropriate behavior elsewhere.
Post-election, we held on to a hope that the President-elect would show a commitment to human rights, civil liberties, equality and non-discrimination, and for values of tolerance, respect, dignity and equal opportunity – all of which actually make America great! However, each appointment he has made, particularly of those with documented positions against women’s rights and with records of misogyny, has given us cause for great concern.
Over the years, Equality Now has advocated for the US government to provide greater protections for women in the law and through foreign policy and development aid. We have viewed the US – which as a world leader has influence around the world -- as an ally in our struggle for gender equality. We believe gender equality is the path to prosperity, peace and security. We had come a long way but there is still a long way to go! We were looking forward to continuing to count on the US government as a committed ally. However, we now find ourselves in the position of trying to hold strong to the protections we have in the law and working hard to prevent back-tracking.
On the positive side, the current state of affairs has activated members of the public to hold strong to their values, protections and constitutional rights. We look forward to supporting this activism and are ready to work with US groups to monitor and hold the US government accountable to its own constitution, values and international human rights law!
Your government works for you. I recently took part in Humanity for Progress’ #StandUpforUs PSA which debuted on January 3 to coincide with the first session of Congress. Alongside fellow activists, I am calling for people to challenge laws, policies and behaviors that marginalize, discriminate and incite violence.
We cannot afford to be complacent. It is vital that we protect the hard-won rights of women already enshrined in law and continue to make advances that will lead to a more equal society. As a young girl growing up in Pakistan, I experienced first-hand life under a dictator who proclaimed the superiority of Muslim men - first through rhetoric and then through laws and policies. Women and minorities took to the streets but so many remained silent. I will not forget their complacency. This experience inspired me to become an activist– a job that feels especially necessary today!
Be vigilant and speak up. Governments are accountable to their citizens. Call your Representatives and Senators (I know it’s seemingly old-fashioned, but phone calls from constituents do carry weight), take part in your local community governments and organizing, in your schools and among your personal networks. Challenge what you feel isn’t right! Challenge the appointment of people that have a record of not defending and protect human rights and equality!
I march because I am energized to stand up for equality and inclusion. The path of activism is rarely easy, but the rewards that come with it are BIG. Remember that each of us can play a role to make equality reality for women and men alike.
Equality Now and our supporters will be participating in marches in Washington DC, Los Angeles, London, San Francisco, Park City and New York.