Montrealers who attended Saturday’s Women’s March were treated to one of the most inspiring, uplifting, joyful gatherings I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing in this city. For two hours, speaker after speaker accessed the stage and the boisterous audience of women, men, and children, were treated to passionate, eloquent, and well-informed speeches that spoke to the necessity of vigilance and continued struggle for equal rights.
As someone who had the pleasure of co-emceeing the event, my view from the stage as I stared out to that huge sea of people (estimates put the crowd between 6,000 and 8,000 people) was something that will always make me smile.
— Toula Drimonis (@ToulasTake) January 21, 2017
From the thousands of Women’s Marches that took place around the world, you would be hard-pressed to find a more inclusive and intersectional event than the one that was organized in Montreal. Coordinator Alia Hassan-Cournol worked tirelessly to ensure that the choice of speakers reflected not only Montreal’s beautiful diversity, but that the struggles and concerns of all marginalized groups were included and heard.
The Women’s March mobilized people in ways I’ve never seen before, but once the signs and the pink pussy hats have been put away, what does one do to channel all that wonderfully constructive energy we all felt on Saturday? How do we move this forward to ensure that this defiance, this anger, this joyous and empowering solidarity, and this much-needed wake-up call to stand up for women and all marginalized groups isn’t limited to a single event? How do we here in this city work to make things better? I have a few suggestions.
Volunteer or donate to a local group working to advance human rights
There are people working tirelessly and often-quietly every single day to make things better in this city. Everyone has unique talents and skills they can share with local organizations that deserve our support. Here are just a few.
The Shield of Athena is a non-profit for victims of family violence. The organization is best known for offering multilingual services (up to an incredible 16 languages) to many of Montreal’s cultural communities, ensuring that immigrant women who have been victims of abuse are served in their language. Their work and their dedication are truly extraordinary and worth supporting. For a more comprehensive list of women’s shelters you could volunteer or donate to, go here.
Rachel Zellars, who was one of the speakers at Saturday’s event, is the director of Girls Action Foundation, a wonderful non-profit national organization that has as its mission to lead, develop, and implement programs that nurture and promote the leadership skills of girls and young women. She is also involved with Third Eye Collective, a group specifically for women of colour who have experienced sexual, gender-based violence.
The Fédération des femmes de Québec is a non-partisan feminist organization that aims to safeguard women’s rights, and tackles all issues related to women; from reproductive freedom to poverty, discrimination, and gender-based violence.
The Women’s Centre of Montreal aims to provide educational and vocational training, as well as information, counselling and referral services to help women help themselves. Quebec Native Women defends the interests of Aboriginal women from Quebec and Aboriginal women living in urban areas.
Québec Inclusif is a wonderful non-profit, non-partisan organization that fights for an inclusive Quebec, where the rights of all minorities are respected and valued. Donate, become a member, volunteer your services.
There are many more human rights and social justice groups and organizations throughout the city doing amazing things with limited budgets and resources. Ask around, Google what you’re interested in, and find out how you and your skills can help make things better.
Consider politics or support women and progressive candidates who run
We need to increase the number of women entering politics, on the municipal, provincial, and national level. Equality will never be achieved if political representation doesn’t become a reality This takes time and concentrated effort, but in the mean time choose with your vote by supporting candidates who support equality, by voicing your concerns loud and clear, and ensuring that the government pushes forward policies that support women and families.
Stay alert, stay informed, stay loud. The upside of Donald Trump’s election is that it mobilized and angered people who made the mistake of assuming some of their hard-fought rights were no longer up for discussion. Seeing women in the U.S. who now must contend with the possibility of Planned Parenthood being defunded and potential losses to their reproductive freedoms has mobilized women around the world to stay vigilant and ensure that their voices are heard.
The Women’s March has galvanized support for women’s right and for all marginalized groups and has made many people eager to want to help in other ways. Follow the Women’s March on Washington – Canada Facebook page to see what else they have planned for the future, check out the Canadian Women’s March website to find links to all the marches across the country, and go to the Women’s March on Washington website and sign up for their newsletter to remain aware of future events and/or initiatives.
Let’s not allow this wonderful grassroots effort to remain a solitary act of defiance, but let it inspire countless new efforts for women and all marginalized groups to stand together and make things better for everyone.
Like President Barack Obama said during his final speech, “If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.”
Now’s a good a time as any!