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National NOW Times >> Spring 2002 >> Article

The World March of Women Marches On

by Karen Johnson, Executive Vice President

The World March of Women 2000 — a series of actions against poverty and violence — was only the beginning of a worldwide movement. More than 65 women representing 35 countries met in Montreal in October 2001 to continue the feminist international action network known as the World March of Women. Representatives from an additional 50 or so other countries want to continue the work of the World March but were unable to send delegates to this international gathering. I was the only participant from the United States and received a great outpouring of sympathy related to the September 11 attacks — often from women who have been living with the reality of terrorist acts in their countries for many years. World March

The women who came to this international meeting gave powerful testimony to the fact that sisterhood is global. Stories were shared about the war in the Congo, the strife in the Middle East, the anxiety in Pakistan and the resistance movement in the Philippines.

We noted that right now 986 million people are without water, 1.3 billion people live on less than $1 a day (70 percent are women), 2.4 billion people have no sanitation and 854 million people are illiterate (540 million are female). We wondered how different the world would be if women's equality were a reality — if women had equal roles in society and an equal voice in governments.

The meeting began with the premiere of a moving 86-minute video documentary of the World March of Women 2000 with footage of World March activities on five continents, including the action NOW organized on Oct. 15, 2000, in Washington, D.C. The World March has since collected more than 5 million signatures — from 5,200 groups and 161 countries and territories — on a petition to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan demanding an end to global injustice. We are still collecting signatures, and you can sign the petition at

Representatives at last October's meeting adopted or reaffirmed goals to:

a) strengthen and maintain a vast solidarity movement of grassroots women's groups;

b) promote equality between women and men and between peoples;

c) support a vast process of popular education;

d) highlight common demands relating to poverty and violence from global women's movements on the local, national, regional and international levels;

e) apply political pressure on governments, the United Nations and other multilateral organizations to implement necessary changes to improve the status and quality of women's lives globally;

f) challenge international financial, economic and military institutions responsible for impoverishing women and intensifying the violence committed against us; and

g) convince the general public and social movements to implement changes needed to improve the lives of women.

We elected a nine-member transitional Executive Committee to ensure follow up until the next meeting, which will be held in Mexico in 2002. At that 2002 meeting, the World March delegates will adopt a formal operating structure. The Secretariat of the World March will remain in Montreal for the coming year.

Around the world, women are organizing to support Afghan women, and continue their calls for peace, justice and equality. Before the next international meeting of the World March of Women, representatives will participate in the 2nd World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and attend the U.N. Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico.

Near the meetings' end we participated in a rally for peace. For an evening of fun we sang songs together in three different languages and danced to music from around the globe. Heartened by the resolve to continue in this millennium as a global feminist network, I am convinced now more than ever that "together we can change the world."

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