Women

The 2021 Women’s Marches are being replaced by a global survey on gender equality

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Moya Crockett
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This year’s Women’s Marches have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the organisers are launching a digital initiative to amplify the voices of women around the world.

In January 2017, millions of people took to the streets in cities around the world to participate in the first Women’s Marches. Sparked by the ascension of Donald Trump to the US presidency, and timed to coincide with his inauguration in Washington DC, these marches were mass protests against misogyny – a force that many believed helped propel Trump into the White House and damaged the chances of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Five years on, much has changed. Trump’s presidency, now almost at an end, has proved to be just as damaging as many predicted it would. The Women’s Marches have evolved from a relatively spontaneous outpouring of anger into annual events and an international network of thousands of activists. Now the world is in the grip of the deadliest pandemic in over a century – making it impossible for the Women’s Marches to go ahead as planned in 2021.

women's march bulgaria
A demonstrator at a Women's March in Bulgaria

Instead, the organisation that grew out of the 2017 demonstrations has announced plans to launch an international survey to identify the challenges facing women, gender-diverse and nonbinary individuals in 2021.

Spearheaded by Women’s March Global, the Global Count online poll is billed as one of the largest surveys ever undertaken to establish the cultural, economic and social barriers to women’s progress around the world.

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“As a global movement, Women’s March Global knows that our freedom and liberation is dependent upon each other,” says Uma Mishra-Newbery, programme director at Women’s March Global. “Every year since 2017 we have built our capacity to mobilise and assemble around critical issues.

“However, it’s time that we truly understand and collect data on what issues people face around the world.”

A parent and child on their way to a Women's March in Canada

Some heavyweight names are involved in the survey, which is open to all who identify as women, as well as gender-diverse and nonbinary people. More will be announced in the coming days, but notably it has been peer-reviewed by Kimberlé Crenshaw, the American lawyer, civil rights activist and academic who coined the term ‘intersectionality’ in 1989.

“Women’s March Global has taken strides to show that the people of the world are stronger when uniting in collective action,” says Crenshaw. “The 2021 Global Count gives people a say in the many issues they confront on a daily basis.

“And while we may not be able to march in person this year, we can still speak as part of a global movement. I urge all people, across all continents, to have their voices counted in this one-of-a-kind survey.”

kimberle crenshaw
Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term ‘intersectionality’, has peer-reviewed the Global Count survey

The poll will officially launch on 21 January – the day the Women’s Marches would ordinarily take place – and close on International Women’s Day on 8 March. It comes at a time when concerns have been raised about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women and other marginalised groups.

In October, the United Nations warned that the “limited gains” that had been made worldwide towards gender equality over the last 25 years are now at risk of being eroded by the coronavirus crisis.

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Research by the charity Care International shows that women across the globe are bearing the brunt of the pandemic in terms of job losses, food insecurity and its effect on mental health, while the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has estimated that an additional 31million women and girls experienced domestic violence during the first six months of the crisis.

The Global Count also has the backing of organisations and women’s movements on every continent, including Girl Up, Global Fund for Women, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Arab Institute For Women, Akina Mama wa Afrika and the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW). Tech firms including Facebook and SurveyMonkey are providing support with distribution.

women's march lagos nigeria
A scene from a Women's March in Lagos, Nigeria

Ultimately, the aim of the survey is to capture the priorities and concerns of women of every country, culture and racial background around the world, as well as gender diverse and non-binary people. This data will then be used to shape future efforts to progress gender equality.

“Data around these key issues on a global and local level is scarce,” says Mishra-Newbery. “Yet, it is vitally needed, not only for movements, but local collectives, funding institutions and the nonprofit sector at large.

“We know how powerful global mobilisation can be and so we are asking everyone in 2021 to join us online, from every continent to ensure all voices are counted.”

Images: Getty; Women’s March Global

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Moya Crockett

Moya is a freelance journalist and writer from London, and a former editor at Stylist.