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International Women’s Day marked by two celebrations at the State House



International Women’s Day was marked by two celebrations at the Rhode Island State House on Thursday. Hope and Change for Haiti, along with Indivisible Rhode Island, The Woman Project, The Collective Bookstore and Planned Parenthood Rhode Island set up in the rotunda with a series of speakers, all women, talking about a range of women’s issues. Meanwhile, in the State Room on the second floor, there was an event honoring Chief Tina Gonçalves of the Pawtucket Police Department, the first female municipal police chief in Rhode Island.

Below is the video from both events:

“Today, we are launching our project, Empowering Women, which will connect women in Rhode Island and Haiti to share training and educational sessions on women’s issues, and promote strategies that will effectively bring real change in both communities,” said Aniece Germain, co-founder of Hope and Change for Haiti and main organizer of the event in the rotunda. “Together we can work to strengthen and empower women here in Rhode Island and in Haiti. Women issues have no borders. We can work together to apply the same techniques to fight discrimination, violence and gender inequality against women here and in Haiti.”

Reflecting on the abuse she has suffered throughout her life, community activist Pauline Belal said that for her daughter, “She will not be allowed to miss her education. She will not be having to put her education on hold because she is a woman. I demand for her, equality…

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“No more. Demand the equality. Demand better health services. Demand our choices..”

“One of the things I have though about so much since Trump became president is how much the sexism in our society and in our legislatures shapes what legislation we do and don’t pass,” said Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin (Democrat, District 3, Providence). “That”s why it’s so important to shine a light on those policies that are important to women.”

“The issues that we care about as women, as advocates for women, are so interconnected. Immigration to racial justice to bodily autonomy to labor rights. Labor unions are essential to the women’s movement,” said Sarah Markey from The Woman Project. “We fight best with our allies in the community to end sexual harassment, for equal pay, for childcare options, flex time and so much more…”

“The world does not run without a woman,” said Pilar McCloud, CEO and founder of A Sweet Creation Youth Organization and co-director of Unified Solutions. “We are the mothers, the caregivers, the providers. We are the lawyers. We are the gatekeepers of all the secrets.”

“Women’s reproductive and economic freedoms do not and have never existed separately,” said Kavelle Christie, public policy and organizing specialist at Planned Parenthood Southern New England in Rhode Island. “The fact is: Full protection of reproductive rights in the form of access to birth control, abortion, paid family leave and childcare is important to the economic opportunity and security for women and their families.”

“When women seek to lead, they, like Hilary Clinton once put it, challenge people’s assumptions about women,” said Justine Caldwell, candidate for State Representative in District 30, East Greenwich. “All of us here today, in one way or another, challenge people’s assumptions about women, and the status quo doesn’t like to be challenged. That’s why it’s so important that we work together for progress.”

“When the doors of this State house opened in 1904, women were not allowed to vote,” noted Shawna Rihani, Assistant Director of Indivisible Rhode Island. “In fact, that did not change until 1917, when we were permitted to vote for the president only. Not until years later were our full voting rights granted. For decades the suffragettes of Rhode Island and nationally fought tirelessly for this right. The women were ridiculed, violated and suppressed… Today, we reap the benefits of the seeds they’ve sewn.”

Another State House event celebrating International Women’s Day was held in the State Room and hosted by Senator Donna Nesselbush (Democrat, District 15, Pawtucket, North Providence) and Representative Teresa Tanzi (Democrat, District 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) honoring Chief Tina Gonçalves of the Pawtucket Police Department, the first female municipal police chief in Rhode Island.

See also: The socialist roots of International Women’s Day

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.