Born in 2000 as an initiative of the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ), the World March of Women swiftly became a worldwide movement. Since then, every five years, millions of women around the world have marched together to condemn poverty and violence.
1995 : beginnings
The idea of organizing a global feminist solidarity movement arose within the FFQ following the 1995 Bread and Roses women’s march against poverty and violence. On that occasion, some 850 women marched for ten days, between Montreal and Quebec City. They carried with them nine demands to improve their economic conditions. When they arrived at the National Assembly, they were awaited by a crowd of 15,000. This helped exert pressure on the government to adopt pay equity legislation. But also to raise the minimum wage and to put in place various measures to combat poverty. It would also inspire activists to create a bold global project that would mark the beginning of the 21st century: the World March of Women.
The World March of Women was originally organized to denounce the policies of the International Monetary Fund and to demand that UN member countries take concrete action against poverty. The objective of the women behind the initiative was to rally at least 10 countries behind common demands.
In 2000, between March 8, International Women’s Day, and October 17, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, more than 6,000 non-governmental organizations across 161 countries set out on a march in their villages and cities. They voiced 17 common demands for the elimination of poverty and violence, addressed to their decision-makers. These demands also had national versions in most countries. In Quebec, an estimated 40,000 people marched in their area and took part in the national rally in Montreal on October 14, 2000. It was the largest feminist demonstration ever to be held in Quebec.
Despite this extraordinary success and some significant gains internationally, in Quebec the results did not live up to expectations. Some commitments did ensue from the government to address violence against women, but virtually none tackled poverty.
The movement continued in 2005 with a second global effort: the Women’s Global Charter for Humanity. The text of this charter, written collectively, was in line with the 17 demands put forward in 2000. The document formulated economic, political, social and cultural proposals for a more egalitarian world. The Charter was based on five values—equality, freedom, solidarity, justice and peace—and 31 statements describing the world that women wished to build.
Between March 8 and October 17, 2005, this charter was circulated across 53 countries in five continents, where women organized various initiatives to make it known to local authorities. During this worldwide event, a solidarity quilt was made with a piece of fabric from each country.
In Quebec, the Charter was welcomed in the provincial capital by more than 15,000 attendees, before ending its journey in Burkina Faso.
Women around the world rallied together in 2010 under the theme “Until all women are free, we will be on the march!” This time around, efforts and demands focused on four main action areas: labour and economic autonomy, the common good, food sovereignty and access to resources, and violence, peace and demilitarization. In Quebec, at the height of the rally, on October 17, 2010, no fewer than 10,000 people took to the streets of Rimouski to cap off a week of promoting equality and women’s rights. This success confirmed that 10 years after the first march, the call had been taken up by an organized global network.
For the fourth international World March of Women in 2015, women from some 50 countries once again joined forces. As before, the March took place in Quebec and internationally on March 8. The theme this time around— “Free our bodies, our earth and our territories!”—ushered in a new and different approach focused on popular education. Rather than addressing policymakers, activists invited individuals to rally with them to challenge systems of oppression and create more equal relationships between women and men, among women themselves, and between peoples. To mark the close of the march in Quebec, on October 17, 2015, a total of 10,000 marchers made their voices heard in the streets of Trois-Rivières.
Since 2000, the base of the march has been comprised of national coordinators in several dozens of countries, notably in Quebec with the Coordination du Québec pour la Marche mondiale des femmes (CQMMF). Until 2016, the CQMMF was under the leadership of the Fédération des femmes du Québec. In 2018, CQMMF incorporated as a nonprofit. It brings together regional bodies of women’s groups or regional coalitions taking part in the World March, including national women’s groups, women’s committees composed of mixed groups or national unions, etc.
The World March of Women – Estrie committee is a permanent committee coordinated by ConcertAction Femmes Estrie. It is open to both groups and citizens. Contact us to get involved!
On Saturday, October 17, 2020, a large-scale march was planned in Terrebonne, in Lanaudière. Free transportation was offered to women from the Estrie region wishing to participate.
The demands of the march focused on the fight against poverty of women and families, violence against women, environmental destruction and taking action on climate change, as well as migrant, immigrant and Indigenous women.