PHOENIX – An array of people of different ages, ethnicities and gender identities united in Arizona on Sunday to promote a global cause: to bolster women’s power at the polls, encouraging them to vote and run for office.
The 2018 Women’s March drew an estimated 22,000 for a rally at the state Capitol. They joined millions across the country and around the world on the first anniversary of the nationwide Women’s March.
If the 2017 march was a reaction to the election of President Donald Trump and later led to the fervor of the #MeToo movement, the theme of this year’s march was wielding power at the polls. Phoenix organizers said bringing voter registration to underrepresented groups, from people of color to LGBTQIA communities, will be the driving force to change the government in future elections.
Groups to engage Latino, African-American and Native American women joined in the Arizona event on Sunday.
“We came today to express our voices and our concerns and to band together with 30 plus Native American tribes as well as indigenous people from Mexico and Canada,” said Nalene Gene, an organizer of Honor Indigenous Women.
“The reason why we have the indigenous women lead the march today is because we need to recognize that indigenous women have been facing issues for over 500 years and we are still fighting today,” Gene said. “I hope that people were able to see us and understand that our Native American issues, our indigenous people’s issues, are the same as theirs and we stand up for everyone when it comes to our rights.”
Channel Powe, a community advocate, told the crowd that it’s time for women to be heard.
“This is for the women who are tired of being overlooked, underpaid, underrepresented and over-talked,” said Powe, who is a candidate for a justice court seat in downtown Phoenix. “We are raising our voices and today we are taking a stand for women’s rights and when I say women, I mean all women.”
Imelda Ojeda, one of the Women’s March lead organizers, worked to draw more people from the Latino community this year.
“During the first Women’s March, we saw that there was not a strong presence of the Latina community,” said Ojeda, who created “Mujeres en la Lucha” or “Women in the Fight.” Ojeda created the group of mostly Latina women to advocate for women’s health, the LGBTQIA community and immigrant rights.
“We are waking up even more; last year was more of a protest, with post-election emotions fueling the march. This year is about organizing and unity. We are looking for more ways to get Latina women, communities of color and the LGBTQIA community more involved in politics and speaking out.”
Democratic legislators Athena Salman, who represents Tempe and parts of Mesa, and Wenona Benally, who represents a district located on tribal lands in eastern and northern Arizona, spoke about the importance of women getting involved in politics.
“Today we are marching for our children, for our grandchildren, for tribal communities, for our mothers, our grandmothers, ourselves, Mother Earth,” said Benally, D-Window Rock.
Vania Guevara, a candidate for Phoenix City Council District 5, which includes central Phoenix and the Maryvale neighborhood in west Phoenix, said she wanted to spur young Latina women to advocate for their rights.
“I am here for all the women who have inspired me and led me to own my worth, own my confidence and ability to help inspire the next generation of Latinas to not just run for office, but to know they have a voice,” Guevara said.
March leaders also stressed the importance of men becoming educated on women’s issues and advocating for them as well.
Alejandro Larios, a campaign manager for Rep. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, “there’s no justice” without women as political leaders.
“We cut opportunities by half when we deny them opportunities, or we make them work twice as hard. We hold them back and hold ourselves back as a society,” Larios said.
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