How the Women’s March Foundation Plans to Take to the Streets Every Day

With the pandemic curtailing protests, the WMF has a new goal: having streets renamed for notable women. Here’s how the organization continues to make an impact even when its best-known initiative has faded from headlines.

Remember when 5 million or so people took to the streets on January 21, 2017, to support gender equality, civil rights, and other issues that were expected to face challenges following the election of Donald Trump? The demonstration, known as the 2017 Women’s March, launched the Women’s March Foundation, which works toward gender equality and, more broadly, equity for all, regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or sexuality.

The mission of WMF is still urgent; in fact, some research suggests that progress toward gender equality has slowed in the past few years. But the world has shifted significantly since 2017, and the pandemic has made it difficult to gather safely in large groups. How does a foundation tethered to the idea of women taking to the streets stay relevant in this environment?

WMF launched a new project, the Feminist Street Initiative, to have streets renamed for women whose efforts have made an impact on the world. The organization will work to rename streets after notable figures such as Maya Angelou, Dolores Huerta, Gloria Steinem, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sojourner Truth, and Wilma Mankiller.

With this initiative, the organization serves as an example of how associations can find ways to keep their mission at the fore even when the action they’re best known for has receded from the public eye.

Adapting to Today’s Environment

Needless to say that when gathering in large groups is considered a health hazard, the tactics of organizations such as WMF need to change, at least temporarily.

Rather than wait out the pandemic, the organization found a new way to make the presence of women felt in the nation’s streets and communities—this time permanently. According to WMF’s website, the initiative to rename streets is a direct response to the pandemic.

“COVID forced us off the streets, but this initiative will help secure our legacy for time immemorial,’” said Emiliana Guereca, WMF’s founder and president, in a statement.

Finding New Places to Be Heard

In looking for new ways to make an impact, WMF came upon a perhaps unnoticed consequence of gender inequality: Of the roughly 240 million segments of road in the United States, the foundation claims that about three-quarters are named after men and very few are named after women.

Additionally, in a study of seven major cities around the world, researchers reported that only 27.5 percent of the studied streets were named after women. By exploring new ways to make a change, WMF found another place where women were underrepresented.

“It’s almost as if we don’t exist, as if we aren’t part of history. So we aim to change that,” Guereca said in an interview with LAist.

Leveraging Virtual Communities

Since WMF hasn’t been able to organize in person, it started the Feminist Street Initiative by spreading the word to its online community, which will have a real-world impact on the streets protesters have occupied in the name of gender equality.

Now, after encouragement from Guereca for people to send in suggestions online for more women to highlight, the organization reportedly has had dozens of requests for streets to be named after more notable women.

“This is what our trajectory looks like: from taking to the streets to renaming streets,” Guereca said.

(Zbynek Pospisil/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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