January 21st 2017 marks the Women’s March on Washington, an event modeled on the The Great March on Washington in 1963 after which Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared “I Have a Dream.” 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and noted that African Americans were still not free. Five pieces of parchment stating that slaves were now “free” did not make this so. Five pieces of parchment, though signed by the President of the United States, did not immediately erase centuries of oppression, bigotry, and injustice. Justice is rarely signed into being. It must be demanded, fought for, marched for.
Over half a century after The Great March on Washington, the march has not ended. Donald Trump’s election into the White House is a wakeup call. Sleeping is not an option. Trump’s election campaign promoted a plethora of hateful, misogynistic, and racist rhetorics that belittled and marginalized large segments of people and was, nevertheless, embraced. This is true, and will always be true—despite sorry attempts to sidestep, manipulate, or repress the matter at hand. The normalization of the degradation of women is not okay. The objectification and shaming of women simply by virtue of being women is not okay.
The march does not end with you or me. Women, in all of the word’s intersectionality and reach, are in fact persons and deserve to be treated as such. Almost 4 years back, I was standing on the steps of City Hall, amidst numerous concerned women and men chanting, “Bring Back Our Girls” and then someone would sing “All We Are Saying” and the response: “Bring Back Our Girls.” 219 girls from the town of Chibok were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram for simply going to school. To this day, the majority of the Chibok girls have not been brought back. Most are now likely child brides to men triple their age—children being forced to birth children. In any poverty or war-stricken situation, girl-children most likely bear the brunt of the madness. This can mean leaving school early to take care of siblings or not going to school at all or being married off for a bride price. These seem like incredibly large issues but we must remember that there are different ways to enact change. One of the first is awareness.
This Saturday, We the People reject discriminatory attitudes, actions and policies. This Saturday, we stand in solidarity with women all over the globe and celebrate women’s rights—human rights. This Saturday, we bring light to gender bias in the workplace, to the shamed and dejected rape victim, to the pain of female infanticide, to the child forced to leave school, to the young girl forced to undergo genital mutilation. We march.
Mirabelle Chiderah Harris-Eze
Canada’s Miss Beauty of Africa 2016