The Women’s March Leads Me To The Earth Charter

  Over one million people participated in the Women’s March in DC  and approximately three million more marched in 600 cities around the country on behalf of women’s rights, human rights, Black Lives Matter, climate change, immigration and diversity, democracy and more. I experienced a Déjà vu when I took in the multiplicity of causes and issues.  I had been engaged for years with the Earth Charter, an international declaration for a sustainable future based on the principles of universal human rights, economic justice, ecological integrity and a culture of nonviolence and peace. I couldn’t help but wonder if the Earth Charter’s time had come.

My experience in the Women’s March in DC included the uplifting immersion in a crowd of like-minded, good-hearted people and the nightmare of 32 hours on a bus without a working toilet.

Highlights were:

  • Walking down Constitution Avenue past neighbors standing in their front yards cheering us on; African American members standing on the steps in front of their church thanking us for coming; and most surprising of all, the police shepherding us down the street thanking us for being there.
  • Signs made me chuckle like “Now, you have gone and pissed off granny”.
  • Sights made me tear up like the 3 year old boy on his dad’s shoulder proudly holding aloft the sign that he made himself, which was a collection of painted splotches that made sense only to him and maybe, his dad.
  • Never have I been in a group that was even 1/8th the size of this crowd where the consideration for strangers held true consistently all day: “I’m sorry for bumping you”; “Here, let me help you with your jacket”; “If you really need to go, you may go ahead of me” (in line at the portable toilet) and “Use my phone, it might work better.” Isn’t this democracy in action? Caring for each other and being there for one another?
  • The happiness of finding a toilet that flushed at the Washington Monument even if it meant 40 minutes standing in line.
  • Feeling so overwhelmed by how huge the crowd was. Regardless of whatever street we went down to be on the edge of the crowd, we would find ourselves surrounded the whole time.
  • Being lucky to find a small café after being on our feet for eight hours where we could unwind a bit at the bar over a glass of wine and appetizer. To our delight, we found instant family with the women and men around us, who were feeling as high and hopeful as we were after our shared march experience.
  • Walking the three miles back to the bus as night fell, I was exhausted. I passed by a young mom and her son of about six years standing in their yard behind a table lined with water and cups and was offered a drink. I politely refused as I just wanted to keep going to finally sit down on the bus. Ten steps past them, it dawned on me that they may have been standing there for a long time to show their consideration and solidarity with the marchers. I turned back and accepted the drink, which was handed to me by the son with a wide smile on his face. As I turned to walk away, I heard him enthusiastically exclaim to his dad at the front door: “Dad, I’ve been helping the women marchers.”  Yes, you were and I was so happy that I was one of them.

It was so gratifying on my return to learn about the massive turnout in the U.S. and around the world on that day. It reinforced for me the importance of showing up and being counted. As the days have gone by, I’ve been impressed with the organization taking place nationally and locally that is focused on “strategic networking and community centered actions”.  Groups and organizations like the ACLU  and Planned Parenthood are receiving an influx of volunteers and funds; Calls to Action to lobby legislators both Democrat and Republican to stand up against President Trump’s cabinet picks and executive actions have engaged thousands; and thousands more have hosted community dinners in their homes, held fundraising events and had consciousness raising meetings. This energy for positive change is definitely not going away.

The issues, concerns and causes that are being addressed by those who marched and those, who have since joined in, seem to fit perfectly within the Earth Charter’s ethical framework for a sustainable, just and peaceful world.   The Earth Charter was the result of a global participatory grassroots drafting process involving hundreds of thousands of people in 77 countries over the course of ten years. It was launched at The Hague Peace Palace in 2000. The core value of the Earth Charter is that all living beings and the planet, itself are one. Therefore, the challenges that face humanity and the planet are all interconnected. I always liked the holistic approach of the Earth Charter with its principles for human rights, economic justice, ecological integrity, nonviolence and peace.

After years of working nationally to make the Earth Charter’s principles a reality in communities, I launched the Cultural Innovations Agency, a nonprofit organization, to inspire and educate people about innovative projects taking care of people, communities and the planet around the country. The Earth Charter serves as the ethical framework for our work.  It gives me a lift to know that the mission of Women’s March’s Way Forward to bring about democracy, unity, freedom, equality, truth and justice is in such beautiful alignment with the Earth Charter vision and principles.

Authored by Jan Roberts

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