Why We March

By Betsy McCallon, CEO White Ribbon Alliance

White Ribbon Alliance is proud to participate in the upcoming Women’s March on Washington. As an organization that champions citizens standing up for their rights and using their voice to hold leaders accountable, it was an easy decision for us to participate. In fact, marching to force leaders to listen is in our DNA.

One of the early events in White Ribbon Alliance (WRA)’s history was the first ever march to the Taj Mahal, an iconic memorial to the Shah’s young wife who died in childbirth centuries earlier. WRA stood up — spurred a movement — to say that women’s lives must be valued and that deaths in childbirth should be a thing of the past. The march attracted thousands of supporters, celebrities, ordinary women, health workers, and the media. The government of India heard our demands and policies were changed to allow nurses in Indian villages to perform life-saving procedures. In time, women won the right to free health care in childbirth and the death rates began to go down. We have continued in this tradition across WRA’s National Alliance countries with citizen hearings, community dialogues and other public fora, to bring about vital changes across the broad spectrum of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health policies.

WRA’s approach focuses on social justice, tackling inequality across the globe and within countries. We know it takes political commitment — not just medical interventions — to ensure every woman’s right to quality health care is realized. Communities standing up for their rights, girls and women’s education, and women’s political participation have brought about significant advancements for maternal health throughout the last decade.

We don’t know exactly what the new government will mean for women in the United States or around the world, but it’s clear there could be very real and very damaging policy changes which will affect women’s health rights around the world. We must be bold, loud and clear with the White House — and with Congress — to make sure that what we value is heard. As so eloquently stated by Michelle Obama in her final address as First Lady in a particular plea to young people, “you cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms, and that starts right now.”

That is why we march, not just for women in the United States, but in solidarity with women everywhere, to be able to enjoy — and exercise — our right to be heard, and fulfill our obligation to hold our leaders accountable. We hope you join our collective movement to convene and catalyze citizens to demand the change they want to see. Together we can keep our work moving forward and ensure that girls and women are valued and respected.

Donate to White Ribbon Alliance and help protect and promote women’s health around the world. White Ribbon Alliance unites citizens to demand the right to a safe birth for every woman, everywhere. We harness the power of local women and men to achieve lasting change. Our approach is working. Subscribe to WRA Voices and follow WRA on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the work White Ribbon Alliance does around the world.