Women’s March: What Next?
By: Julia Harr, LCSWA
The Women’s March may be the largest organized protest in US History with an estimated three million participants nationwide. Women and men from across the globe gathered in sisterly solidarity as we took a stance to say, “we are watching.” A full spectrum of feminists were present and accounted for: women wearing cat ears, little girls carrying girl-power signs, men as allies, and women who have done this before. While each person there likely had their own motivations for attendance, I truly felt the fruition of the March’s mission statement: “We will not rest until women have parity and equality at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.” We gathered by the millions and no one was arrested. We showed up in peace and with conviction. We made herstory and I am so humbled to say I was part of it.
My question for women, especially my social work sisters and brothers, is “now what?” Where will we take this momentum and feelings of togetherness? The mass media would have us think because The Women’s March was a joining of a myriad of causes and not a singular, specific, call to action it runs the risk of not gaining traction. I challenge the sentiment that success should be measured by our collective ability to have a large impact on one particular thing. What if we measured success through individual action and community engagement? What if each person who attended the March chose to participate in their community in a new way? In Raleigh alone we would have about 17 thousand people participating in a variety of community agencies, each person engaging in a way that feels authentic to them. Our own community would feel a tremendous impact:
If everyone who attended the March in Raleigh made a one-time donation of just $3.00 to Planned Parenthood, we would surpass the amount of money given to them by the State for Women’s Health Services for one year. They estimate for every dollar spent on these services, they save the state four dollars. That’s about $200 thousand worth of impact.
If everyone who attended the March in Raleigh donated just 10 hours of time to Volunteer Raleigh we would grow their program by about 40%. They currently estimate their current impact has saved the community 2.6 million dollars; we could increase it to $3.7 million.
If just 3% of March attendees signed up to become mentors with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle, the waitlist of children waiting for mentors could nearly be eliminated. That’s about 500 kids in the area who are 46% less likely to use illegal drugs and 52% less likely to skip school.
If everyone who attended the March in Raleigh donated just 3 healthy, nonperishable food items to Inter-Faith food shuttle, we could help keep their doors open to the quarter million people they serve and provide a week’s worth of food for the BackPack Buddies program.
If just the social workers who attended took the next step in community involvement and leadership, I dare to dream what we could accomplish as the voice of the voiceless. Perhaps you can join the Board of Directors for an agency you care about, take on an intern, or offer some pro-bono counseling.
With this kind of follow through on the momentum of our community event, I can’t think of one media outlet, individual, or opposing group who would say this March was not successful. Our community would benefit in profound ways and those volunteering would have a greater sense of connectedness to their neighbors. Success of the March matters less about how you want to individually engage, and matters more that you do engage. Both our individual and community health depend on it.
Julia Harr, LCSWA is a clinical social worker at WakeMed Rehab Hospital in Raleigh, NC. She serves children and adults recovering from a variety of physical illnesses including stroke, surgery, paralysis, and traumatic brain injury. She is the Chair of the NCSCSW Communications Committee.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by the NCSCSW