Manitoba

'The fight isn't over' for dozens who braved cold at Winnipeg Women's March

Cold, blustery weather wasn't enough to stop dozens of Winnipeggers from gathering and marching for women's rights on Saturday during the fourth annual Women's March.

Organizer estimates 50 to 70 people attended 4th annual march, one of more than 30 events around world

Winnipeggers met at the Manitoba Legislature Saturday to advocate for women's rights at the fourth annual Women's March. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Cold, blustery weather wasn't enough to stop dozens of Winnipeggers from gathering and marching for women's rights on Saturday during the fourth annual Women's March.

"It's the year 2020, and we still need to actually take to the streets to ensure our rights are preserved," said Brianne Goertzen, provincial director of the Manitoba Health Coalition.

"It's important for women, men, allies and people to come together and demonstrate their solidarity for the fact that everybody's entitled to their own rights over their own bodies."

Goertzen was one of a handful of speakers at the march, which began with opening remarks at 11 a.m. at the Manitoba Legislature.

The Winnipeg event was one of 32 marches across the globe, organizers said. The annual events began the day after U.S. President Donald's Trump's 2017 inauguration.

The theme for this year's event was body autonomy.

In Manitoba, Goertzen said that means making health care — including reproductive care — more accessible. She pointed to the shuttered obstetrics care in Flin Flon, Man., as well as what she called a shortage of funding for the Women's Health Clinic and difficulty accessing abortions for people outside of urban centres.

Supporters gathered at the legislature held signs calling for equal rights, better health care and an end to violence against Indigenous women and girls. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

"We need to make sure that access is better for women across the province," she said. "That leaves rural and northern Manitobans out. It adds an additional barrier for them to access those services."

In her speech, Goertzen said body autonomy also means fighting against racism, violence against Indigenous women and girls and rights for transgender and two-spirit people.

"The fight isn't over," she said.

'I didn't believe that I had a right … to say no'

Organizer April Carandang estimated there were between 50 and 70 people at the march. The event included a drumming circle and round dance, with speeches from Goertzen, Winnipeg NDP MP Leah Gazan and Erika Lee, a Manitoba medicine student who was part of the campaign to make Mifegymiso, or the abortion pill, free in Manitoba.

Kirby Burke, a mother and survivor of sexual and emotional abuse, said she grew up not realizing she deserved rights over her own body and wants to change that for others. After she lived through sexual abuse, she said she faced shame, guilt and disbelief instead of support.

"I didn't believe that I had a right for myself, and for my body … to say no and have boundaries," she said. 

Kirby Burke, a Winnipeg mother who has survived sexual abuse, said she felt morally obligated to attend the march. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

When she gave birth to her daughter Burke said she felt unheard and unheeded by doctors after she told them she wanted to give birth with a midwife and without drugs. She said she developed PTSD after the experience.

"Nobody deserves that, no matter who you are," she said. "People need to remember and realize that we do have a right over our bodies, and we do have a right to say no — and we do have a right to say yes."

The event at the Manitoba Legislature is one of 32 marches around the world, organizers said. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Carandang said it's crucial to shed light on women's issues. This year was her first as an organizer of the event, but she said she knew she wanted to be involved after seeing last year's march.

"It's very important for the community to come together and speak out about women's rights," she said.

"For lawmakers, we encourage them to create laws that bring more access to health care, not only in major cities but also in rural and northern cities across the province."

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