World March 2000 Starts Off on the Right Foot



by Loretta A. Kane, Chief of Staff, Communications and Field

NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy helps kick-off the World March of Women at a news conference on March 8.  NOW's Action Vice-President Elizabeth Toledo, at right, also spoke about the march's mission to end violence and poverty.  Photo by Lisa Bennett-Haigney.

"Today, on International Women's Day, feminists in the United States proudly join with more than 3000 women's groups in 151 countries to launch worldwide organizing efforts aimed at ending violence against women and poverty," said NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy, as she stood in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol grounds on a clear warm day. Gandy was flanked by representatives of other women's and progressive groups as they celebrated International Women's Day, March 8, 2000, with the U.S. launch of the World March of Women 2000, a worldwide series of coordinated women's rights demonstrations.

World March of Women 2000 events, which began with kick-off events around the globe on International Women's Day, will culminate on Oct. 17, the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, when women representing every participating country will present their demands to the U.N. in New York City.

NOW's Membership Vice President, Karen Johnson, leads a protest outside Sen. Jesse Helms' office on March 8. Helms continues to hold up U.S. ratification of the important global treaty CEDAW.  Photo by Lisa Bennett-Haigney.

A crowd of more than 100 gathered on the U.S. Capitol grounds for the news conference which announced the World March of Women 2000. Amidst the cheering crowd, a diverse group of women leaders addressed the issues driving the march, including NOW's Gandy, Bishop Imagene Stewart of the African American Women's Clergy Association, Cheri Honkala of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, Rita Smith of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Rabbi Bonnie Margulis of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Sfazeleh Rasouli of the Association of Iranian Women and Ritu Sharma of Women's Edge.

Following the news-conference-turned-rally, activists marched over to the office of Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., to demand ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which is an international bill of rights for women. The U.S. is one of the last nations holding out on ratification-despite the efforts of feminist women in the House and Senate to move it to a floor vote in the Senate.

It was a picture perfect day and unseasonably warm as picketers waved signs that demanded passage of CEDAW and an end to violence against women and all poverty. The crowd shouted chants like "Hey, Hey-Ho, Ho! Jesse Helms has got to go," "Stop the War on the Poor," "No more silence. Stop the violence," and "Women's rights are civil rights. Pass CEDAW NOW!" Members of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union lifted their voices in song as Capitol Hill staffers took in the sight.

Ritu Sharma, director of Women's Edge, urges the crowd to march in October for an end to violence against women and poverty.

March 8 also marked the kick-off of the new World March of Women 2000 Web site (www.worldmarch.org). The site highlights important information on the march including an organizing kit, logistical details, links to global events, organizational endorsement materials and post cards which will be presented to Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan when the international delegation of women travels to the U.N. in October. The post cards simply state the mission of the U.S. march:

We unite with women around the world to demand that leaders of the United States, the United Nations and its member States, and other institutions of power work to:

Eliminate poverty and ensure a fair distribution of the planet's wealth between rich and poor and between women and men;
Eliminate violence against women; and
Ensure equality between women and men.
"The World March of Women 2000 is an opportunity for every U.S. feminist to take part in a global action. These worldwide actions, which are being organized by women from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, will demonstrate that sisterhood really is global and powerful," said NOW Membership Vice President Karen Johnson. "It is incumbent upon each of us to take part in this historic collaboration of women around the world."

For more information on the march, please visit www.worldmarch.org or call 202-628-8669 (extension 0).


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