National NOW Times >> Winter, 2001 >> Article
of the World Unite to End Poverty and Violence
by Loretta A. Kane
Thousands of women, men and
children marched in front of the White House, the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the first-ever international action
to call for an end to violence against women and poverty. They came from
across the country and around the globe for the World March of Women 2000
on Oct. 15 in Washington, D.C.
"Today, our global sisterhood made
history. Now, our challenge in the U.S. is to show our strength at the
polls on election day," said NOW President Patricia Ireland. "We will turn
the momentum of the World March into feminist victories on November
As activists assembled on the Ellipse across the street from
the White House, languages from every continent wafted through the air.
Clad in outfits native to their countries, the crowd moved through the
streets like a brightly colored quilt, unfurling for nearly
one-and-three-quarter miles when the last person stepped off the Ellipse
Chants in Spanish, French and English mingled as the
marchers made their way along the two-mile route. As the march passed the
World Bank and the IMF, members of the international delegation used
common cooking utensils, like pans and spoons, to raucously protest the
effect of the institutions' policies on women worldwide. The utensils were
carried to the rally site, where an artist used them to create a
After marching, activists poured back onto the Ellipse
to rally across the street from the home of the U.S. president. The
speakers and entertainers on the rally stage were every bit as diverse as
the women, men and children who participated in the march. Virginia
Williams, the mother of Washington, D.C.'s Mayor Anthony Williams,
welcomed the march to town. And Ireland delivered a rousing keynote
"Today and the next two days are the culmination of the
first ever action by a newly empowered global movement for women’s
equality," said Ireland, who addressed the crowd flanked by members of the
international delegation. "Representatives of 157 countries are involved
in this march around the world to end violence against women, to end
poverty, and to demand equality for women."
The rally program
included speakers who addressed the full feminist agenda, including issues
like reproductive freedom and abortion rights, and calls to end sexism,
racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, ageism and all forms of oppression.
Most of the speakers were grassroots activists at the forefront of the
struggle for equality.
"Let's keep ourselves and our children
alive. Let's end poverty and hunger and homelessness," said Cheri Honkala
of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union. Honkala traveled to the march from
Philadelphia despite a stay in the hospital immediately before the march.
She assured the crowd that, despite her brush with death, "I didn't live
for nothing. I'm living because we’re going to end poverty and I’m going
to have a good life."
"We know that the well-being of this world
depends on women," said Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm
Workers. "We women are the organizers. We've got to organize our families,
our neighborhoods . . . If not, they're going to take away our
reproductive rights, they're going to take away our jobs."
the speakers described the march as the launch of a renewed, global
women's movement. And many talked about the impact of U.S. policies on
women from around the world.
"I am here to tell you that it is time
for you to wake-up! When refugees leave their countries to come here [to
the U.S.], instead of being interviewed to find out what they are fleeing
. . . they are being jailed. I am here to tell you that asylum-seekers
should not be jailed," said Marleine Bastien, of Haitian Women of Miami,
Speaker after speaker also noted the importance of this
year's elections, and the lasting impact the next president will have on
women's rights and the civil rights of all people.
"And in the United
States . . . we will carry this energy, this enthusiasm and these issues
to the voting booths of this country to elect a government that will
support our equality," Ireland said to a crowd of people who were on their
feet cheering wildly.
The day following the march, members of the
international delegation took their protest out of the street and into the
World Bank and the IMF, where they met with officials at both institutions
before traveling to New York City to march and rally there and to meet
with a representative of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the United
Nations (U.N.). NOW Vice President Membership Karen Johnson attended the
U.N. meeting at which women presented the World March demands for women's
equality and an end to violence against women and poverty.
"The march is over, the election results are in.
Now, we must work to fulfill the promise of our historic worldwide event
and achieve our demands. The hard work is still before us," said Ireland.