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Women and Power – Change Is Afoot; Keep Applying the Pressure

The Way it Was 

For much of recorded history women have been second-class citizens in a male-dominant world. In ancient history this was not the case. Women were honored, as was the Mother Goddess. They could own property, run businesses, children were identified through the mother’s line, and they were community and spiritual leaders.

Then things began to change. Around the second millennium BCE the first laws of recorded history, the Hammurabi’s Code, was written onto clay tablets. Some of these laws regulated the rights and freedom of women. It limited their mobility, their rights to own property, their sexual freedom, and their rights to their own children. Their male relatives, husbands, and even their male sons gained power over women. This notion of women as second class citizens was perpetuated in sacred text, religious institutions, and in ancient legends and myths that are still at the heart of our culture.

This had a devastating effect on women that is still reverberating through much of the world today. According to the Hunger Project, fifty-five million women in the world don’t have enough to eat. Every five seconds a child dies from hunger related diseases. One third of American women are more likely to be poor compared to their male counterparts. And single mothers are 67.7% more like to be living in poverty than a single father.

Change Is Afoot 

There have been some fundamental shifts in the global economy and business patterns that are creating change. For better or worse we have moved from an agricultural and manufacturing economy to an information economy which depends on smarts, not brawn. In many countries women equal or exceed the education backgrounds of their male counterparts. More and more women are positioned to benefit economically. Women own half our nation’s wealth and control a majority of household spending decisions – to the tune of five trillion dollars. Women make over 80% of consumer purchases in the US. The results: women are setting trends. For example, the increase in the availability of organic products is because of women’s influence based on their concern for the families’ health and wellbeing.

Women lacked organization and strategic alliances however, until the Women’s March, the worldwide protest on January 21, 2017. I It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. t’s purpose was to unite women in order to advocate for legislation and policies regarding human rights and other issues, including women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights. The rallies were aimed at the recently elected President Trump and largely due to statements and positions attributed to him that were regarded as offensive and anti-women.

The Women’s March sent a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights. The Washington March was streamed live on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

The Washington March drew 440,000 to 500,000 people, and worldwide participation has been estimated at five million. At least 408 marches were reported to have been planned in the U.S. and 168 in 81 other countries. After the marches, officials who organized them reported that 673 marches took place worldwide, on all seven continents, including 29 in Canada, 20 in Mexico,and one in Antarctica. In Washington D.C. alone, the protests were the largest political demonstrations since the anti-Vietnam War protests in the 1960s and 1970s, with both protests drawing in similar numbers. The Women’s March crowds were peaceful, and no arrests were made in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Seattle, where an estimated combined total of two million people marched.

This march provided the chance to create community and were an opportunity for social action and protest as well as solidarity for healing, for bridging race and sexuality differences.

It was an opportunity to remind the world and our congressional leaders that women are still here, we are still relevant, and we are willing to engage in social action to protest and seek remediation of our civil and human rights.  It was an opportunity to stand up and demand that this presidential administration and the Republican-led Congress invite women of all identities and backgrounds to the table to listen to experts on issues of housing and health care and education. Women want a say in the types of programs which will allow women and their children to pursue the American Dream and those that will distance us from achieving that dream.

For Our Daughters and Granddaughters 

Nothing that we have taken for granted for the last forty years is safe.  And, though we’ve seen the erosion of welfare benefits and reproductive rights take place for decades, including under the watch of President Bill Clinton, there is nothing like this current administration to remind women that we need to be ever vigilant. Just as civil rights have eroded for Black Americans, so have they for women. Both trends will continue in a downward spiral if we don’t constantly hold those in power responsible for protecting the civil and human rights we’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Unfortunately, the glass ceiling still exists in every part of life when it comes to gender equality. We must continue to fight for equal rights so that we can ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have better opportunities, more access, and more control over their lives and their bodies than we did.

It’s been four months since the march. We were awakened from our complacency. Let’s not go back to sleep. It’s more important than ever to stay vigilant, to stand in our truth, to take appropriate action, and to keep speaking up so our voices will be heard and counted.
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