Marchers arrive at Maffeo Sutton Park on Saturday morning at the Nanaimo Women March On event. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Community marches in support of Nanaimo women and all women

Nanaimo Women March On event was Saturday, Jan. 20

Hundreds of people in Nanaimo marched in support of women and women’s rights and equality.

Nanaimo Women March On took place Saturday, with marchers starting at Diana Krall Plaza and ending up at Maffeo Sutton Park.

“We are so empowered by the numbers, the diversity, the strength of the movement,” said Lauren Semple, event MC, at a rally at the park. “We want each of you to know that whatever brought you here today, in whatever clothing, with whatever sign, we hear you, we see you and we love you.”

Ashwak Sirri, chairwoman of Equal Voice Central Vancouver Island, said she was there to support women who have experienced abuse, violence, discrimination and disrespect, and to support the women who speak up about those issues.

“Discrimination, abuse and exploitation of women is not just in Hollywood and the entertainment world. It is everywhere, in every industry, in every community, and definitely in our community,” Sirri said. “This is a human issue and it must be solved as a collective, not in fragments.”

Lesley Clarke, executive director of the Nanaimo Women’s Centre, said ideas that women have achieved equality and have opportunities to participate equally in social, economic, political and cultural realms are myths.

“For some of us, this is a new awakening and for others, this is old knowing,” she said. “When we march, when we we sing, when we utter the words ‘me too’ … we challenge the mythology.”

Shalema Gantt, president of the Nanaimo African Heritage Society, said it’s important for people to carry forward the messages from Saturday’s march.

“What you guys are today is beautiful,” she said. “But we need to take this from here today and take it out there tomorrow. Ask questions. Open your mouth. Talk. Speak. Be heard.”

Saturday’s rally also included drumming and other musical performances and poetry.

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