Winnipeggers join in 4th annual Women’s March

“When we have to fight to get a seat at the table, we are not equal”: Brianne Goertzen

Nearly a hundred Winnipeggers met at the Manitoba legislature Saturday to join thousands of demonstrators in hundreds of cities across Canada and the U.S. in the fourth annual Women’s March.

Organizers in more than a dozen cities from coast to coast hosted similar marches, from Halifax, N.S., and Saint John, N.B., to Ottawa and Toronto, Ont., and through the Prairies to Vancouver, B.C.

Winnipeg demonstrators listened to a series of speeches before marching around the legislative building.

Opening Winnipeg’s event, Winnipeg Centre NDP MP Leah Gazan connected the women’s march to the environmental movement.

“We must do whatever we need to do to protect our beautiful mother — a mother that gives us life,” she said from the legislature stairs.

“I stand with you here today, on this very cold day, to say that nothing will stop us,” she said.

“Nothing will stop women, two-spirit [and] transgender people from coming forward and leading the movement to fight for a better world for all, to fight for the human rights of all people, to fight for mother earth — and to fight for a better world.”

Erika Lee, a U of M medical student who was active in a letter-writing campaign in the summer that helped secure universal access to an abortion pill said she was marching because “there is still work to be done.”

“The rights of women are being eroded,” she said.

While the pill was readily available in Winnipeg and Brandon prior to the Manitoba Medical Students for Choice campaign, women in rural areas of the province had to travel long distances and cover the cost themselves.

Winnipeg school board trustee and community activist Brianne Goertzen spoke of the inequality women continue to face.

“We do not have equal rights,” she said, “and we most certainly do not have absolute control over our bodily autonomy.”

“When we have to fight to get a seat at the table, we are not equal,” she said. “When we have to fight for equal distribution of care responsibilities, we are not equal. When we have to fight to get access to basic health-care services, we are not equal. And when we have to fight to be believed, we are not equal.”

She wrapped up by encouraging more women to step forward and put their names on the ballot, saying, “If we want women’s issues to be placed firmly in this legislative assembly and the House of Commons, we cannot expect the male-dominated power structures to serve our interests.”

“And when we do,” she said, “we all need to be there to support them, not only with our money but with our time and our energy.

“And we never forget — the personal is political, the political is personal.”