Edmonton Women's March participants continue to push for equality

Since the inaugural Women's March last year, some in the crowd for the second annual event in Edmonton have started to see change, but want to see more.

'Everybody realizes that we need to continue the fight and continue to make sure that these voices are heard'

A crowd of about 1,000 people gathered at the Alberta legislature grounds for the second-annual Women's March in Edmonton. (Richard Marion/CBC)

A crowd of around 1,000 people, some wearing pink toques and carrying protest signs, gathered at the Alberta legislature grounds to speak out and stand up for women's rights.

Some people in the crowd for the second-annual Women's March in Edmonton said progress has been made since last year's march — but they want to see more.

"There's some movement, but there definitely could be more happening as well," said Michelle Nieviadomy, who was among the crowd gathered at the legislature grounds on Saturday afternoon.

"It's time for our women to rise and let their voice be heard and stand in solidarity," she said.

When U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, protesters took to the streets in Washington D.C. and around the world, rejecting the derogatory comments Trump has made about women.

A follow-up event wasn't planned in Edmonton, but it was brought back by popular demand, said co-organizer Alison Poste.

"We have continued to get amplification on this particular event because I think everybody realizes that we need to continue the fight and continue to make sure that these voices are heard," Poste said.

'It wasn't even recognized that the problem existed'

The event is about much more than opposition to the U.S. President and his agenda: it's about women's rights.

Organizers of this year's Women's March in Edmonton say it's about equal rights. (Richard Marion/CBC)

Peggy Morton, also at Saturday's event in Edmonton, has been a women's rights activist for five decades.

"When I started, it wasn't even recognized that the problem existed — and if it was, it was like our problem. It wasn't society's problems," Morton said. "The fact that women still face discrimination and oppression as women, especially working class women, that's recognized by everybody now."

Over the past year, there has been increased attention to the regularity with which women endure harassment and abuse. Actress Alyssa Milano asked women who had experienced abuse to hashtag #metoo on social media.

As that campaign gathered steam, the New York Times broke a story alleging film producer Harvey Weinstein had a history of assaulting young, vulnerable, up-and-coming women in the entertainment industry. Hollywood has now latched on to another movement: Time's Up.

"In the era of #metoo, we are seeing those brave individuals come forward and tell their story, and we want to amplify that," Poste said, noting the Women's March has evolved to encompass a myriad of issues, from gender-based violence to pay-equity. 

"We want to go beyond the hashtag. We want to say the hashtag isn't enough," she said. "It's time to go into your respective communities and do the work every day to ensure that when you see something, you say 'that's not acceptable.'"

An increased awareness of gender inequality

Hallie Hobbs, 8, holds up a handmade sign during the Women's March. (Richard Marion/CBC)

Compared to last year's Women's March, Saturday's gathering drew a significantly smaller crowd. The first march was attended by about 4,000 people.

But Elaine Cardinal said the shrinking crowd isn't reflective of the change she has seen on a day-to-day basis. 

"One of my biggest things that I've seen change are the men who are willing to stand out here, our brothers who stand out here with us and support us as women in all the things that need to change for women," Cardinal said. 

Her friend, Wilma Ellenburgh, said in the past year, she has noticed people becoming more educated about gender inequality. 

"This can't happen anymore. We can't take harassment any more," she said. "Our rights have to be given to us and we have to fight for them."

Both women said the trend of people standing up for women's rights needs to continue.

"I think we're trailblazers for the generations, and so I would love to see more young people," Neviadomy said. "More young voices. And that they have a space where they know that they're equal. That our young women know that they have rights. They're equal. They have an equal voice and they have something amazing to contribute."