Women's rights

Halifax women’s march is about ‘believing in one another’

Hundreds expected to turn out to support gender equality, LGBTQ rights and racial equality

Part of the crowd during the 2017 rally.   Alexandra Biniarz

One year after the first Women’s March in Halifax, event organizers and activists haven’t lost their momentum.

On Saturday at noon, the second annual Women’s March will take place in Grand Parade. The event will include poetry readings, music, dance performances and speeches.

Rana Zaman, an activist and one of the event organizers, said “belief” is this year’s theme.

“(It’s) believing in one another, believing in what we’re saying, believing we can make a change,” she told The Signal.

The 2017 March, which occurred in several cities around the world, immediately followed the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump ran on a platform that aimed to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and tighten women’s reproductive rights. 

In Halifax, hundreds of women and men listened to poetry and spoken word performances and carried signs advocating for women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and racial awareness.

Guest speakers at this year’s event will include Halifax’s Poet Laureate Rebecca Thomas and former firefighter Liane Tessier. Tessier made headlines in December when she received an apology from Ken Stuebing, chief of Halifax Fire and Emergency, for sexual harassment and abuse that she experienced in the workplace. The apology came 12 years after Tessier originally made a complaint.

Zaman wants to start pushing for changes in policy that will help women from all communities and prevent future harassment and abuse. The Women’s March is an opportunity to start this process, she said. 

Zaman said hundreds of people are expected to turn out for Saturday’s event.

Questions about inclusiveness

Last year’s event drew a huge crowd, and a number of people on social media have expressed excitement for Saturday’s March.

However, there are some who have concerns about the safety and purpose of the event.

There were some comments made on the Facebook page that were seen as hateful, trans-exclusionary and racist. The posts, which have since been deleted, caused anger and concern about the safety of the event.

In a Facebook post made in the event group on Jan. 15, event organizer Melissa Bellefeuille said that this year’s March is about asserting “the rights of transgender women, women of colour, indigenous women, LGBTQI2S allies, and to any woman who has been silenced.”

Zaman said the organizing committee has pushed to be as diverse and inclusive as possible.

“We have black women represented, we have Indigenous women represented, we have transgender representation and myself as a Pakistani woman,” she said.

For Zaman, Saturday’s event isn’t meant to divide participants; it’s “supposed to be a unifying event to unite us and empower us.”

Similar marches and gatherings will be taking place around the world on Saturday and Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to take part.