By Kayla Michaud and Laura Weick
Photo by Kayla Michaud |CIGAR| Students take part in the University’s first ever “Her Time” march.
On Monday, March 19, several University of Rhode Island organizations and students participated in a women’s march titled “Her Time.” The march was originally intended to occur on International Women’s Day on March 8, but was cancelled due to bad weather.
“If we don’t march then who will? If we don’t do anything then who will? We have to stand up for ourselves and speak up for the people who can’t,” said Aliyeh Halloway, a student attending the march.
The march began from the bus circle near Memorial Union at 4:15 p.m. and moved to Edwards Auditorium before heading inside the library’s twenty-four hour room. The march then left the library and concluded at the Multicultural Center, where march organizers held a celebratory reception.
Marchers chanted sayings such as, “my body my choice, my country my voice” and “respect my existence or expect my resistance.” According to Ashley Mejia, student organizer of Her Time and president of The Feminist Collective, about 50 people attended the event, including all genders. It was originally Mejia’s idea to bring this event to campus.
“Originally I wanted to raise awareness for International Women’s Day because on campus we never really have events celebrating women to begin with,” said Mejia. “I wanted to bring that exposure to organizations that do advocate and surround themselves [that do] work for women. Show people that women are really great and there are so many beautiful and diverse women on campus that need to be exposed.”
“respect my existence or expect my resistance.”
Many organizations from both the University and Rhode Island joined the march. Some of these organizations included PINK Women, the URI Women’s Center, the anti sexual violence organization P.L.E.A.S.E, the Feminist Collective, Planned Parenthood, the Society of Women Engineers, College Democrats and The Women Project, a South County based nonprofit.
When asked what she hopes those who participate or witness the march can learn from it, Hannah Woodhouse, program coordinator of P.L.E.A.S.E. replied, “I hope that they learn that there is a strong network of empowered women at URI. I think that we need to work together on projects and uplift one another because that is the strongest partnership we can have as women on a college campus.”
Woodhouse also hopes that the women’s march will demonstrate how college students care about the world around them.
“I’m a recent graduate of URI, so I am no longer student, but I am constantly inspired by the work of students, especially student activists. So when Ashley [Mejia] approached me with her topic, it’s really inspiring to see that there are students on campus who want to organize events like this, participate in events like this, show up and attend things. Especially staff and faculty should notice that students do a lot of work here. Students have specific passions and they are not quiet about it, which I appreciate too.”
Students showed up own their own and with their friends to march in support of women.
“Originally I was going to come with a group of people but [the march] got rescheduled,” said Patrick McEachern, a student at URI. “I decided to still come because it’s always good to show support in these kinds of events and show there are people there standing up for women’s rights.”
Robyn Johnson, a member of the University’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, said that her organization chose to participate “because we’re all about promoting women. In our case, we’re promoting women in STEM fields, in which only 24 percent of women are represented.”
“I think that it’s a great way to spread the word about how women are capable, empowered and are ready to accomplish anything,” Johnson said.
“my body my choice, my country my voice”
The Multicultural Student Services Center co-sponsored and hosted the reception. George Gallien, director of the MSSC, said that they chose to cosponsor the program and host the reception because “we’re always open to programs that are geared towards women’s issues.”
“I think that it’s a very relevant cause. [The women’s march] really brings women together so they can talk about issues that are very important and impactful in their lives,” said Gallien.
According to Mejia, this year’s walk started off small due to the unpredictable weather and limited budget, but Mejia hopes that the march not only happens next year, but long after that.
“One of the other goals as well is to make it an annual event, every year to make it a bigger thing,” said Mejia.