Westerville, Ohio, U.S.A. – More than 100 marchers – mostly young women – walked in the cold rain Saturday in favor of action on climate change and against the advancing encroachment of human rights throughout the nation.
For Holly Todd, 19, the issue of equality in political representation is key. She said there is a huge difference between the number of women in the U.S. population and the number who serve in government.
“I think it’s really starting to affect our laws that have to do with sexual health and maternity leave,” said Todd, a student at Marion Technical College in Marion, Ohio.
Many of those interviewed at the march in Westerville, a small Ohio city north of Columbus, said it was the first time they’d taken part in a women’s march.
Despite gloomy skies, the spirited crowd heard speakers address equal rights, humanity, and the environment for about two hours Saturday morning. They cheered between messages about the importance of voting, the specific ways women are underrepresented and the impacts of underrepresentation.
The environment was a main focus of the march this year. Some participants who were clearly set on the issue of climate were a small group of teenage girls from Westerville who belong to the We Love the Earth Environmental Club.
Three of the club members said it was their first march.
“I care about the future of our planet and the climate and I want future generations after me to have their rights, just as generations before me have fought for their rights,” said one of them, Cassidy Chakford.
Kati Zonner, also from the club, said she was there in hopes that things would turn around.
“We need to support and do something about the environment,” said Zonner. “Things are only going to get worse if we continue the way we’re headed.”
And Moira Hogan, who is also part of the environmental club, said, “I wanted to spread the message about climate change. It is real, and everyone needs to start working harder to fix it.”
Hogan added that the government “needs to start paying more attention” to climate change.
Across the country and in some cities around the globe, citizens, professors, students, politicians and others marched on January 18, in what has become an annual protest since the first one in 2017, held just one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
For many of the Ohio marchers, the protest was about “intersectional feminism,” meaning that it wasn’t limited to equal rights for women, but also took other values and issues into account, such as the environment, civil and human rights and safety from gun violence.
Ohio state Sen. Tina Maharath, a Democrat who represents parts of Westerville, said it was her third women’s march.
Maharath said her 2018 election was late for the first Asian American woman to take her place in the Ohio General Assembly.
“That shouldn’t have happened in 2018, that should have happened decades ago,” said Maharath. “I want to make sure that all women, especially women of color, have equal rights to their male counterparts.”
Todd said people of color and immigrants are victims of human rights violations here in the U.S.
“I’m here to represent people who haven’t been properly represented in the past few years,” Todd said. “I think women have come a long way as far as the U.S. democracy goes, but we still have a ways to go, so I’m hoping to fill that gap.”
Bre Napper, a 19-year-old student at Marion Technical College, said that part of the reason she attended the march was that she wanted to help humanity through feminism.
“Feminism should be inclusive,” said Bre Napper. “It should involve everybody: our trans brothers and sisters, people of color, immigrants — everybody.”
Some proposed laws – and some that have been enacted – oppressive, Napper said, not just in Ohio, but around the country.
“It’s really important you use the power of the people to go and fight for humanity,” said Napper.
Danish Bajwa is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.