January 18, 2018 / 5:09 PM / 5 months ago

Women set to march again as Trump triggers new era of activism

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women around the world will return to the streets this weekend, one year after millions marched to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, with a new goal - electing more women’s rights advocates.

Trump’s misogynist comments and policies rolling back birth control and equal pay efforts have propelled many women into activism for the first time, campaigners said, pointing to the success of social media campaigns against sexual harassment.

“I think that these are natural outgrowths of that outpouring of energy and they reflect some of the issues of the people who marched,” Vanessa Wruble, head of March On, one group of organizers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Some 5 million women around the world staged demonstrations on Jan. 21 last year, the day after Trump’s inauguration, many wearing pink “pussy hats” in reference to the president’s boast about grabbing women’s genitals.

“It felt like it was a huge signal to Trump’s administration,” said Elissar Harati, 29, who marched last year in Washington and will take to the streets again on Saturday.

Multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against male actors, filmmakers and agents in Hollywood, and the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns against sexual harassment, have awoken her to broader issues like equal pay and maternity leave, she said.

Tens of thousands of people have registered their intentions on social media to join rallies on Saturday and Sunday, with major events planned in New York and Los Angeles, as well as Britain, Nigeria and Japan.

But turnout is unlikely to equal 2017’s, organizers said.

“The women’s march of last year was a historical moment that we’re not trying to replicate,” said Bob Bland, who helped organize the 2017 march on Washington, which appeared to draw larger crowds than Trump’s swearing-in at the U.S. Capitol.

Marchers will kick off a voter registration campaign in Las Vegas and other swing states held by Republicans - where neither political party holds a predictable lead - ahead of a possible backlash against Trump in November’s midterm elections.

“We’re not going to create change until we change our representation in the government,” said Wruble of March On, which is keen to ensure more liberal women win seats in Republican-led districts.

Although March On’s strategy differs from that of Women’s March, which organized the iconic Washington protest and remains focused on social justice issues, experts say this is unlikely to undermine the movement’s long-term effectiveness.

“It’s not unusual in social movements for there to be break-off movements and different takes on the best way to get to the end goal,” said Debbie Walsh, head of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.

Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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