Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh was among the estimated 3.5 million who marched in one of the largest global mobilizations for women’s rights in history.
We will no longer keep quiet until every single woman in every single part of the world is free.
I march for myself. I march for my safety. I march to be a voice for change.
I march for the millions of women and girls who live under the worst forms of dictatorship and tyranny.
I march for those who are unable to freely exercise their constitutional and democratic rights to freedom of expression and choice.
I march because I am tired of hearing officials make promises in meetings and at events, only to see very little action taken to bring these promises to fruition.
I march because it is time to let everyone know that the world is failing at advancing women’s rights.
I march for the millions of women and human rights defenders who receive death threats, who are sentenced to jail, and who are killed for challenging dictatorial regimes and speaking up against injustice.
I march because, at the moment, my government is legalizing and normalizing State-sponsored violence, policing of women’s bodies, and the imprisonment of those who speak truth to power.
I march because it is my human and democratic right to march.
The Power in Protest
On January 21, I joined the Women’s March from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I was attending the Gender is My Agenda Summit. While my participation was mostly virtual, I could feel the physical energy of the estimated 3.5 million women who stood up for the rights of women and girls from communities and neighborhoods across the globe.
It was an exhilarating experience to march alongside my global sisters.
There is a history of organized events in the global women’s movement. I think of Seneca Falls, where women gathered at the first women’s rights convention in 1848. Then, in 1975, the First World Conference on the Status of Women was held in Mexico City. More recently, we saw the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.
Those events were momentous. January’s event will prove to be momentous too. Reports estimated that 31,000 women participated at Beijing. January’s Women’s March, some 20+ years later, saw more than 3 million protesters march against gender injustice.
To be sure, our sheer numbers on January 21 made it clear that it is not acceptable for government officials to relax commitments to gender justice.
We Will Not Relax Until All Women Are Free
By now, I should hope world leaders are revisiting their commitments to advancing women’s issues. Most importantly, I hope they are rethinking their stances on women’s sexual and reproductive choices and decisions.
May governments hence be aware that we will no longer keep quiet until every single woman in every single part of the world is free.
Governments and leaders with the power to influence change will continue to have their closed-door meetings and conferences. But they must know that we will continue to hold massive public marches on a global scale to stand up against anyone who dares to devalue and disrespect women and our rights.
And me? I will continue to march because I believe in the power of WOMEN.
First published on Word Pulse