The Ohio Chapter of the Women's March on Washington prepares to strike and rally on International Women's Day
In 2017, International Women's Day — which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women — is returning to its roots. The holiday, officially recognized globally in 1911, was created in response to women demanding better working conditions and pay, as well as voting rights. At that time, women were also mobilizing via marches and labor strikes. However, as gains were made in the fight for women's rights over the years, some complained International Women's Day began emphasizing celebration more than action.
But this year, on Wednesday, March 8, women will mobilize once again through the International Women's Strike, organized by women in over 30 countries. And in an act of solidarity with those organizers, Women's March on Washington created “A Day Without A Woman,” which will be observed in cities nationwide, including Columbus.
“‘A Day Without A Woman' is a national call to action, and basically it's just bringing awareness to … gender bias and racism that exists in our community by attempting to show an economic impact,” said Women's March Ohio Director Rhiannon Childs, who also coordinated the Ohio Sister March in Columbus on Jan. 15.
According to the Women's March website, people can participate in “A Day Without A Woman” by taking the day off from paid and unpaid labor, avoiding businesses not owned by women or minorities and wearing red in solidarity.
In Columbus, the day will be celebrated with an outdoor rally at the gazebo in Goodale Park beginning at 4:30 p.m.
“We know that everyone does not have that privilege to … stay home from work,” Childs said. “We ask that they just display their support in any way that they can. So that could be meeting with your friends at your home for lunch and not going out to eat at a restaurant where wages are low … [or] attending our rally in celebration for [women's] contribution to our communities, political engagement [and] our society.”
The rally, which is free and open to all, will feature women entertainers and speakers, including radio personality Lil D, DJ Jae Esquire, the band Wednesday Wine, Lean In Ohio Founder Julene Allen and City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown.
“[International Women's Day] has a special place of importance this year,” Brown said. “We cannot talk about that day in empty phrases. We can't celebrate women without also recognizing the particular struggle right now. … The stubborn refusal to confront issues like pay equity and to confront issues like paid family leave and paid sick leave that we're seeing out of the Trump administration is a real problem for women, so International Women's Day has to be about all of those things.”
In conjunction with the rally, there will also be a VIP event beginning at 6 p.m. inside the Goodale Shelterhouse. Admission is $20, which will be donated to RISE Travel's RISE Project, a scholarship foundation to keep travel costs low for speakers and facilitators associated with marches and rallies. The VIP event will feature a silent auction, raffle and performance by local musician Donna Mogavero.
Community involvement in “A Day Without a Woman” will also include businesses in the Short North. “We are just asking them to close in solidarity [during the rally],” Childs said. At press time, Samson Men's Emporium agreed to close and attend the rally, and Global Gifts, Yoga on Highand Surprise Modern Party + Cocktail Goods agreed to contribute to the cause.
As an African-American organizer with Women's March, Childs said she is committed to increasing outreach to people of color, which has proven to be an uphill battle.
“My efforts … allowed me to recognize how marginalized we are, people of color, especially women of color,” Childs said, citing disparities in health care, employment and other areas for minorities. “So when you're trying to reach out to … women of color, they might be worried about how they're gonna feed their children or pay their light bill, and they're also facing a lot of racial discrimination, so for them to identify with … feminism, that's not their [primary] concern.”
Still, Childs is encouraged by the focus of Women's March on intersectionality in all of its events, including “A Day Without A Woman.”
“I feel like this is one of the largest platforms, especially for women of color,” she said. “I can't say my gender is more important than my race or my race is more important than my gender, and I won't choose, so that's the thing that is so beautiful about Women's March.”
But are marches and rallies really effective?
“I would never discourage people from marching and rallying,” Councilwoman Brown said. “Those are really good, collective demonstrations of opinion [and] requests.”
They are also catalysts for future action, according to Christian Tamte of RISE Travel.
“This is not just a ra-ra moment for us,” Tamte said, explaining that event attendees will be able to meet activist groups they can later join.
That's exactly how Childs got started. She reached out to the Ohio Chapter of Women's March on Facebook and was readily accepted. “I just felt like this was a moment that I had to speak out,” she said. “I could no longer be silent.”