Las Vegas Sun

September 25, 2018

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Women keep an eye on the future with a nod to the past

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Wade Vandervort

Attendees hold up signs at the Women’s March: Power to the Polls at Sam Boyd Stadium, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018.

Women's March: Power to the Poll

Attendees react to a speech by Melissa Harris Perry during the Women's March: Power to the Polls at Sam Boyd Stadium, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. Launch slideshow »

Two months before millions of women protested across the globe last year, Bob Bland, one of the four co-chairs of the Women’s March, gave birth to her second daughter, Chloe.

A year later in Las Vegas, Bland stood with her youngest daughter on her hip and her eldest daughter by her side in front of almost 20,000 people at the #PowerToThePolls rally at Sam Boyd Stadium.

“I bring my daughters up here not because it’s easy, not because it’s practical, but because it’s hard,” Bland said to the crowd. “They deserve to be here with me because they are the future of this country.”

The women’s marches and rallies staged nationwide form the most recent push in U.S. history for women’s rights.

“My grandmother had my mother at 14 years old. She picked cotton and didn’t have a say in anything,” Cher said to the crowd in Las Vegas after being added to the celebrity lineup that morning. “My mother thought you had to have a man take care of you. Even though she had more fun when she was divorced and with her girlfriends, all those women still thought that was what had to happen.”

The newly crowned Strip resident reflected on the progress of women in her lifetime.

“In 1776, the union was formed, and in 1920 we got the vote,” she said. “What I’m going to tell you now is to step up to the plate. It’s time for women to own it. If you don’t take it, no one’s going to give it to you, and if you don’t have a vote, you don’t have a voice.”

Ten thousand event attendees registered to vote, far exceeding organizers’ original goal of 1,000. The rally launches an initiative pushing voter registration in Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio, said co-chair Linda Sarsour.

One speaker, Rev. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign, discussed poverty among women.

“I come to you in the spirit of Coretta Scott King, who taught us that abuse to women is violence, but starving a child is also violence,” Barber said. “Neglecting schoolchildren is violence. Punishing a mother and her family is violence. Discrimination against a working person is violence. Ghetto housing is violence. Ignoring health care is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.”

More than 1 in 8 women, nearly 16.3 million, lived in poverty in 2016 and 45.6 percent of those women lived in extreme poverty, with income at or below the 50 percent poverty level, according to a report by the National Women’s Law Center.

Kristen Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and co-founder of MomsRising, a nonprofit group working for economic security for women and families, announced an effort to pass the Equal Pay Opportunity Act in Washington.

Mothers are breadwinners in half of families with children under 18, but the wage gap for mothers is larger than women overall, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

This will be the fourth time EPOA has been introduced in the state legislature and would require companies to address pay discrimination.

“Last week, I testified for the Equal Pay Opportunity Act with my 18-year-old daughter,” Finkbeiner said. “But then, I had a moment when I saw my future flash before eyes, and I said, ‘Let me not come here with my granddaughter, please.’ We have had enough generations fighting for equal pay. The time is now.”

Four Nevada youth activists — Nevada State student senator Ashley Bowman, UNLV Spectrum director Caitlyn Caruso, NARAL Pro-Choice Nevada volunteer Megan Lynn Lewis, and Make It Work Nevada Ambassador Jasmine Simon — took the stage at the rally.

“We need to be listening to youth voices,” Caruso said. “After all, your liberation is tied to ours. We need to start acting like it. To the young people who are fighting everyday for the safety and liberation of all people, I see you, I respect you, I fight with you.

“We continue to force change in our movement. We continue to resist to make this world a more equitable one. So know this: This is ours.”