Marching through the snow to defend women’s rights in Waterloo

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File Photo/ by Erin Abe

On Saturday, Jan. 19th, women all over the world rallied together in support of the Women’s March, including a march that took place here in Waterloo Region.

Hundreds of women marched from Waterloo Square in the heart of uptown Waterloo, marching to Carl Zehr Square in Kitchener where the march ended with speakers, booths and other performances.

Cassie Myers, the Waterloo Chapter Ambassador for the Women’s March, was one of the leading women in ensuring that women in the K-W region had a march they could attend instead of having to travel to Toronto, especially in the snowy weather.

“I’ve been kind of involved in the tech scene in Waterloo and going to a few women in technology mentoring events, and that got me connected with the director of Women’s March Canada, Sarah Bingham, who is local,” Myers said.

“Before I even knew she was involved with the Women’s March we chatted about a few things, and she kind of pulled me in to the things that were happening with Women’s March Canada and specifically Waterloo region.”

2017 marked the first year of the Women’s March in retaliation to the inauguration of President Donald Trump, a figure who has had many sexual assault allegations brought forward against him. Marches now take place on the same day, for the most part, all over the world to fight for women’s rights.

“Most of the marches happened on the 19th, I’d say 99 per cent of them, all around Canada and the United States, all around the world actually, but Canada is separate,” Myers said.

“Because of the weather we did get a little less participation than we’d hoped for, we did get about 300 people out.”

“Local parliament was there like Laura-May Lindo is Kitchener’s MPP, and I actually met her when I was in first year she came to one of my sociology lectures.”

The theme for the marches this year was ending violence against women, as the World Health Organization had found that one in three women has been physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

“I think it was cool to see different kinds of people within and outside of the women’s rights come together and show support, we had a variety of organizations sharing the work that they do, so as much as we organize the march, there are people who have been doing incredible work in the region and it’s really important for us to showcase that,” Myers said.

In attendance were groups like the Sexual Assault Support Centre, also known as SASC, the Muslim Coalition of Women, the SHORE Centre and the Indigenous Student Centre.

“It was interesting to see the intersectionality of tech, government and non-profit all around the theme of ending violence against women,” Myers said.

Also in attendance were Laurier students, including Alex Geitz, a third year communications student at Laurier.

“I actually heard about [the march] when I was in second year, I was on HerCampus and one of the writers went to the march and did a feature about it, and I had obviously heard about it when it went viral when Trump was inaugurated, Geitz said.

“I was always interested right off the bat but it wasn’t until this year, I’m actually a women in leadership don in Leupol residence and I thought it would be a really good learning experience to take my floor to.”

Participants were also asked to wear a red scarf to recognize and honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, and the disproportionate violence they face in their lifetimes.

“We had a sign making event leading up to the march, and then went to the march together in Kitchener and it was really fun. I had five people from our building come, and I had some friends from Laurier, older students, who are on co-op and they came back for the march, people from Brock came up,” Geitz said.

“It was nice because we were able to touch the first year community but also kind of come full-circle and get people from other communities as well.”

The march in Waterloo was only one of hundreds that took place last Saturday, and the Women’s March Canada plans to hold other events throughout the year to continue the fight for women’s rights.

“There were about seven speakers who were very inspiring, there was an Indigenous speaker who talked about the missing and murdered Indigenous women, and that was the theme, a lot of ladies were wearing red scarves to support that,” Geitz said.

“Local parliament was there like Laura-May Lindo is Kitchener’s MPP, and I actually met her when I was in first year she came to one of my sociology lectures.”

“At the time, she was working for the Diversity and Equity Office, so it was interesting to see her grow, and she led a bunch of chants about trusting women which was just very empowering,” she concluded.

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