Our Experiences on Inauguration Day
Our Experiences on Inauguration Day
CARE’s Sarah Lynch and CARE Action advocate Jeanne Faulkner spent the day talking with native Washingtonians, inauguration parade goers, protesters, and their Uber drivers, asking everyone they meet about their hopes and concerns regarding women’s empowerment:
We started our day in an Uber with our driver, Johnny. We talked about what he was seeing, driving around the city on Inauguration Day. He mentioned kids on the street, ready to protest the Inauguration and said, “In my country things are very different. Americans should know what they have and value it.” He told us he was from Sierra Leone, in a tone that indicated both pride and defensiveness. “People don’t know what my country is really like. They think it’s all violent and poverty, but it’s beautiful and filled with good people who are gracious and loving. We have so many resources, but that’s never the story people hear.”
He talked about his 3 year-old daughter and his hope that she will grow up to know that girls and women matter. We talked about how journalists will always tell the story from the viewpoint of crises and conflict because that draws the bigger audience. We also talked about how it’s the job of citizens, no matter what country they come from, to tell the story of beauty and progress through conversations, social media and example.
In our next ride Calvin, our driver, laughed when he heard us talking about Johnny because it turned out he was also from Sierra Leone. When we told him we were working with CARE he said, “Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere!” which is an acronym for CARE that even some staff have a hard time remembering.
Calvin said, “CARE was very important to me and I thank you for your service because when I was back in Sierra Leone, I received a lot of benefits from CARE and other agencies. Presently, I’m in the US, and I cannot imagine what would have happened and how my country would have been. Thanks very much. I have my family here – two kids and my wife. We’re living our life. My wife is a full-time student and we just had a 3-month baby girl. Her name is Mina.”
We asked him how he felt about the Inauguration and March and he answered,
“We were not expecting Donald Trump to represent America. Everybody knows America is the greatest country in the world. So from today he’s going to be the 45th President of the United States and we’re going to hold him responsible. We wish the best for Donald and we want him to succeed because that means the American people will succeed. But, we’re going to hold him accountable for everything he says and does.”
Next we moved on to a CARE event at Busboys and Poets, where CARE’s David Ray, Catherine King from the Global Fund for Women, and Breanne Butler, one of the Global Coordinators of the Women’s March on Washington, had an energizing discussion about why social movements are critical to the empowerment of women and girls.
King said, “In part, it’s about scale and influence. When women organize and join together they can impact laws and resources and develop power to make significant change.”
Butler said, “It’s about getting women involved with politics who wouldn’t normally be involved. I’m a chef and if you told me four months ago I’d be sitting here with you guys today, the day before 600 women’s marches take place all over the world, well… I wouldn’t have believed you. People are saying, ‘my voice has to be heard. My social media status isn’t good enough. I have to take action, get out there and do it.' There all these voices out there that have never been heard before, never been vocalized. Tomorrow – they’re going to be heard…Women have been among the most marginalized communities, but here we are stepping up as leaders.”
We spent the rest of the day at CARE’s Inauguration Day warming station at the Club Quarters hotel and talking with women who had traveled to D.C. specifically for the Inauguration about their views on women’s empowerment and gender equality. Their responses were varied, passionate and optimistic that President Trump will deliver on their hopes for a better future for women and all Americans.
We talked to Charlene from New Jersey about what issues are universal to women everywhere, and she said it’s all about “healthcare and food and nutrition – without these basics, you can’t live and be competitive in the world.” We then asked her what her hopes for the future were. She talked about economic opportunity and ended with her hope “that women do get more of a voice and more equality.”
We also talked with a woman named Susan and asked her what she wanted President Trump to know about the lives of women, and she told us it was that “women are the strength of society.”
Finally, we spoke with a single mom about the struggles that she has faced. We asked her how we can stand in solidarity with women around the world who also face hardships, and she said, “Don’t tell them what to do or what to think but just let them know that they’re heard.”
It was a fascinating day, spent with a diverse group of people with diverse perspectives, but we felt all the more energized and motivated for having heard what they had to say.
Check out our next podcast episode to hear these voices and those of women attending the Women’s March, coming soon.
Sarah Lynch, Senior Director for Global Advocacy
Jeanne Faulkner, CARE Action Advocate