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Nanaimo Women March On with a message that matters

A range of voices will lead the conversation at Jan. 19 event downtown
People gathered at Maffeo Sutton Park at last year’s Nanaimo Women March On event. This year’s march is set for Saturday, Jan. 19. NEWS BULLETIN file photo

Nanaimo Women March On is for everyone who is willing to march for women and with women.

The third annual march is set to happen downtown on Saturday, Jan. 19. This year the setup is a little different, with the march starting at Maffeo Sutton Park and arriving at the Nanaimo Entertainment Centre so that the rest of the program can happen indoors.

According to an event listing, Nanaimo Women March On is “in solidarity with others across the globe for transformative social change” and is meant as “non-violent resistance to gender-based violence and oppression.”

Melissa Stephens, co-organizer, said there are a lot of people, community groups and organizations in Nanaimo that are committed to many of the march’s causes.

“We have this sort of sweet-spot kind of population here where it’s not really a big city but it’s not a completely small city, and I think that there’s a lot of ways for organizations and groups of people to get to know each other and share ideas and to really build a movement around reducing gender-based violence, but also seeing women in their diversity,” Stephens said.

Stephens said she thinks the new venue will work well, as an outdoor event in January left people a little bit chilly last year and it wasn’t reasonable to ask groups to set up information booths at the park, for example.

“There’s still a march component … but I’m hoping the indoor location will be a little bit more hospitable,” said Stephens. “We’re hoping that more information can be shared and that people can linger a little longer there.”

Saturday’s program features numerous speakers and there will be a minute of silence for missing and murdered women and girls. There will also be entertainment.

Stephens said while the current organizers are happy to co-ordinate the event, she hopes others will come forward to take leadership next year, as she said that would help to make Nanaimo Women March On more inclusive, diverse and sustainable.

For now, some of the movement’s messages are leading to little conversations that matter, Stephens said.

“We’re starting to see new and different faces … and more questions and open-mindedness,” she said. “I can’t speak to the broader, systemic change, it’s more anecdotal for me, but I definitely think the conversations are happening.”

People will begin gathering at Maffeo Sutton Park at 10:30 a.m. with the march to start at 11 a.m. The program at the Nanaimo Entertainment Centre begins at noon.

RELATED: Community marches in support of Nanaimo women and all women

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