International Women’s Day

UCSC march acknowledges stories of resilience

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photo by Alonso Hernandez

After traversing the campus, the UC Santa Cruz International Womxn’s Day March culminated in an intimate teach-in at the Quarry Amphitheater on March 8. About 30 people gathered to share poetry and personal stories of suffering and strength.

“Today is intended to celebrate women’s social, political and economic achievements and to call for gender equality. I am a guerrera that believes in justice and won’t stop until justice is served,” said Rebecca Gilpas, an activist for labor and UC worker’s rights, in her speech at the Quarry Amphitheater.

Speakers at the teach-in included Ernestina Saldaña, a local immigration and women’s rights activist, Rebecca Gilpas and Sheeva Sabati, a Ph.D. candidate and researcher for UCSC’s Center for Collaborative Research for an Equitable California. Other speakers included a number of student activists, ambassadors from student organizations like El Centro and a few members of the UC workers’ union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299.

Starting at Oakes College, the marchers made their way through campus, stopping to protest the Porter/Kresge Dining all. Protesters confronted mistreatment of UC workers by rallying and chanting “UC, UC, you’re no good, treat your workers like you should!” and “No justice, no peace!”

Reminded of her own experiences with workplace discrimination on campus, labor activist Rebecca Gilpas recounted the way her employer held her divorce against her and targeted her after she helped fellow laborers to unionize.

“As a leader of my sisters, we only got stronger as I stood up to that employer and said ‘We don’t deserve this type of treatment,’” Gilpas said. “I am committed to stand up and fight injustice in the workplace, making sure women have a voice. I take passion to the work I do because in the surrounding buildings that our members work at, they get treated horribly. They are having to fight for breaks. They will get policed to the restroom. But when we fight to make that public, that’s the only way they’ll stop.”

photo by Alonso Hernandez

Speakers addressed abusive interpersonal relationships, student debt and gendered racism. Fatima Mohammadi, a student activist who focuses on the voices of Afghani and Muslim women, discussed the anxiety she and other women of color, especially Muslim women, experience on a daily basis — how even just walking outside can be a struggle.

“It’s the importance of people uplifting their own communities, especially women, because they’re the voices who are not heard, who are drowned out by men, by violence, by abuse, by constantly being silenced,” Hussain said. “Us standing up here, sharing stories, showing courage, is a step forward that we should all appreciate. I appreciate your solidarity and for empowering me to speak, making me feel safe, knowing there is a community here who supports me.”

The UCSC actions were organized and inspired by Womxn Strike U.S., a nationwide organization that focuses on the rights and treatment of womxn in the workplace, particularly low-wage jobs and undocumented womxn, explained protest organizers Sabina Wildman and Michael Gasser.

“March 8, 2018 will be a day of feminism for the 99 percent: a day of mobilization of Black and brown womxn, cis- and bi-, lesbian and trans womxn workers, of the poor and the low waged, of unpaid caregivers, of sex workers and migrants,” Womxn Strike U.S. wrote in a statement.

Between speeches and spoken word, demonstrators also explored the relationship between women and the treacherousness of internalized misogyny among women in the workplace and relationships between women on a personal and public level.

“The worst enemy women have is women,” speaker Ernestina Saldaña said in her speech

photo by Alonso Hernandez

. “We judge, because we learn to judge, we judge how you dress, how skinny you are, the color of your hair, you don’t look young, you don’t look good ‘enough.’ We have to support each other even when we disagree with each other, because it’s part of the growth of being a woman.”