SANDY COVE, DIGBY COUNTY, N.S. – A small women’s march in Sandy Cove has once again drawn widespread attention for its small size – even though it had doubled its numbers from the year before.
But an organizer of the Digby County event hopes what people will remember most about the march is not its size, but rather the issues women continue to march for.
“Issues that people have in larger, urban centres are the same issues we have right here in Digby Neck,” said Gwen Quigley Wilson, an organizer of the Sandy Cove march. “It doesn’t matter where you are. The issues that we were marching for – and some of our marchers had very personal issues they were marching for – the issues of women’s equality and women’s rights are the same.”
The Jan. 20 march saw 32 people take part – which was an increase from 15 people in 2017 when a video of the march went viral online amid in a sea of other women’s marches around the world that had collectively seen millions marching for women’s issues. The marches last year took place one day after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump. In Washington there had been an estimated 500,000 marchers.
So 15 people marching in Sandy Cove – yes, that stood out too. Particularly since the population of Sandy Cove is only around 65 residents.
That the march doubled in size this year also didn’t go unnoticed – not even on the late night television circuit.
“An estimated six hundred thousand people gathered yesterday in Los Angeles, three hundred thousand in Chicago, two hundred thousand in New York City,” said late night TV host Stephen Colbert on his show in rattling off march sizes. “In some places it was even bigger than last year, like in the tiny town of Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia, which doubled its numbers last year, (32) people…plus one baby.”
On his show comedian Seth Myers joked about how awkward it must have been for the other half of Sandy Cove that didn't come out for the march.
(Although Quigley Wilson points out that the 32 in the march came from different communities, not just Sandy Cove.)
Still, to once again receive so much attention for a second year – which has included many media stories – Quigley Wilson says it is amazing and overwhelming.
“I'll let you know when we get an invitation from Ellen DeGeneres,” she jokes.
Quigley Wilson says it makes one ponder what it is that makes the Sandy Cove march so interesting.
“Is it because people in larger centres assume that people in small, rural isolated areas don’t pay attention to the news or aren’t informed about what’s bigger and what the global issues are? At the heart of it I sort of think that’s what it is.”
Then again, maybe it’s because these issues do touch all corners of the world that makes people take notice.
Asked what she was marching for that day, Quigley Wilson said it was about women’s quality.
“There is a huge gap still in areas that affect equality as it relates to women, whether it’s access to representation in our elected levels of government, be they municipal, provincial or federal. Or differences in terms of pay equity,” she says. “Access to health care, matters of justice.”
She also said she wants to encourage women who perhaps aren’t use to speaking out to stand up for their rights.
She says the recent #MeToo movement has helped to empower women and she hopes to see this empowerment continue.
“One of the signs that we carry here in this march is a sign highlighting the fact that women in Nova Scotia got the vote in 1918. It’s 100 years ago, we need to do more with it,” she says. “Sometimes you feel that your vote is wasted and people become apathetic about voting. But I think I’ve finally come down on the side that yes, I will vote, but I will vote according to my conscience. I won’t vote strategically, I’ll vote according to my conscience and make my voice count that way.”
As for next year – and asked if it will be a bad thing if the march gets too big in that people won’t pay attention to it anymore – Quigley Wilson says if even just one person came out to march that would be okay.
Just one voice, she says, can make a difference.
“Once one person is willing to speak out, that gives other women and people – because it isn’t just women – it helps give them the confidence to speak up,” she says.