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A Force Of Positivity

Posted: January 31, 2017 at 3:26 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

The day after Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States between 3.3 and 4.6 million people marched around the world in protest. In the United States, that meant approximately one in one hundred people took to the streets. Six hundred and seventy three sister marches took place internationally. A small committee of women with a focus on intersectional feminism had brought these millions together, prompted by the wish of one woman—a grandmother in Hawaii, who, on the night of the American election declared that “we have to march.”

In Africa, women and men in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar joined the movement. They marched to denounce the radically destructive potential of this white house election, and they marched to uphold the rights of women, minorities, queer folk, immigrants, and people of color—groups who most frequently come under attack from authoritarian regimes.

Last weekend, after one week of Trump’s presidency, was no different. Two days after the new president signed an Executive Order to unilaterally ban travelers from seven designated Muslim countries from entering the US, protests erupted across America and the world. These protests were labeled the “New American Resistance” in the UK, and The Washington Post called them the beginning of a “serious social movement”.

NairobiMarch_ photo, credit: Lydia Matata

Three of the affected countries under the ban are African: Libya, Sudan, and Somalia. Africans around the world have reacted with condemnation. Somalia-born athlete, Sir Mo Farah, stated the Trump had “made him an alien.” A British citizen, Farah, has lived in America for the last six years. The four-time Olympic champion is one of Britain’s most successful athletes. “Now, me and many others like me are being told that we may not be welcome. It’s deeply troubling that I will have to tell my children that daddy might not be able to come home,” Farah said on Sunday.

The #NoMuslimBan protests that have only grown in momentum and scope since Friday arrive on the back of the women’s march. Globally, women are increasingly facing threats to their physical safety. In recent years, harassment of women’s and human rights activists as well as female journalists and academics has increased, particularly in countries like Egypt and Turkey—as evidenced by the arrest, in early December, of Egyptian women’s rights defender Azza Soliman. Earlier in the year feminist activist Mozn Hassan was also subjected to investigation under “Case 173,” which targets civil society organizations in Egypt. Both Soliman and Hassan have been officially banned from travelling by the Egyptian government. Travel bans are in fact a frequent tactic of oppression against targeted groups.

While the oppression of human rights and civil sector groups in Egypt is nothing new, the scale and severity is increasing. In 2016 Hossam Bahgat told The Guardian that state repression is greater today than it’s been for generations.

How does this relate to the movement for women’s rights in America? American politics undeniably affect the world. America’s social policies and attitudes refract outwards, and are implemented in places where economic might allows American companies, diplomats, and missionaries to influence local politics. America’s hegemony is felt through its exports of technology, cinema, fashion and music, all of which set cultural mores in all the globe’s corners. The US is often an important enforcer of global mechanisms for women’s protection, for example through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Court. The implications of a new White House administration that attacks, rather than backs, women’s rights and human rights, are already being felt around the world.

As we move into the second week of Trump’s term, we will likely see more and ongoing oppression of targeted groups. “Dreamers” may be the next target, with murmurs of deportation threats.

If “the people” are to have their voices heard, a genuine new movement will need to galvanize and it will need to be internationally supported. But most importantly, for the #womensmarch and #nomuslimban protests to become a lasting movement that supports all minority groups threatened by Trump’s administration, the loving, nonviolent, and peaceful nature of protests will need to continue.

To date the inclusive, nonviolent ethos of the American women’s march events has set them apart, meaning that people who do not normally protest—or have never before protested—have come out in droves, bolstering numbers. “We had never protested or marched before,” writes Monica Chylla in Stacy Parker Le Melle’s coverage for Hugffington Post. “I was nervous about potential outbursts at the march.” The peaceful nature of the protest calmed Chylla’s fears.

“I want to be a force of positivity,” writes Sirin Thada, a participant in the NYC women’s march. “To be everything Trump is not. To speak from the heart, but with wisdom, clarity, love and respect.”

These peaceful intentions are echoing outwards. Women’s March Nairobi declared their march to be “inclusive and all are welcome.” At the forefront of marcher’s minds were the long-term consequences of Trump’s inauguration, alongside the long-term goals of feminism. “Raising my sons to be feminists!” declared one sign in the march through Karura Forest.

Protestors will need to continue to keep the long-term goals of women’s rights—and social development—in mind. As the co-founder of the African Women’s Development Fund and Global Fund for Women board member Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi stated, women’s rights, along with a host of important human and environmental rights, are not going to get the kind of support they need under Trump—and will continue to be undermined. “As far as women and other civil society organizations [in Africa] are concerned,” said Adeleye-Fayemi, all progressive issues might suffer under a Trump presidency.”

—Caracal Staff

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