As the world celebrates International Women’s Day by reaffirming the basic human rights of women everywhere, many look to this year’s observances to be especially poignant in an increasingly hostile political environment.
The Trump administration has put the concerns of American women in the line of fire, with women’s reproductive choices, access to healthcare, paid family leave, equal pay, and protection from sexual harassment all vulnerable and especially threatening for minorities and women of color.
In the broadest sense, the new administration poses a threat to basic human rights. On a more nuanced scale, President Trump’s public comments have condoned a more permissible culture of misogyny.
As a result, many American women are answering back not just with just increased awareness of these threats, but also an outpouring of activism. The Women’s March defied expectations for turnout not just in the United States, but in countries around the world, from London to Toronto, to Mexico City to Paris that held sister marches contributing to an overall attendance in the millions. The activity kicked off a resistance movement that is galvanizing women to take up more engaged acts of political involvement.
Female members of Democrats Abroad are organizing themselves into active groups to tackle the perils of the Trump administration and the fears within their communities back home. Though they have been around for several years the Global Women’s Caucus has recently re-launched with a more concentrated effort and purpose to foster gender-informed perspectives in issues analysis, communication, and policy to bring issues and policy related debates throughout all levels of government that impact on women to the forefront.
“Democrats Abroad has a wonderful platform particularly on women’s rights,” says Salli Swartz, Co-Chair of the DA Global Women’s Caucus. “What we need to be doing more of is putting our principles into actions. And that is exactly what we are working on now.”
A major focus of the GWC has been to connect concerned and engaged American women, from a wide range of experience and backgrounds, who live around the world to facilitate the forming of local caucuses in their countries and communities.
“Especially for new activists and ‘start-up’ caucuses, guidance, support and motivation at the global level can be crucial,” says Ann Hesse, Co-Chair of the DAGWC. “Right away we can connect individual members with others in their region. Even individuals in isolated regions can participate in our monthly online meetings and join in activities such as the ‘Ides of Trump’ or call storms.”
One such chapter under the DAGWC umbrella is the Democrats Abroad United Kingdom Women’s Caucus. The DAUKWC was established under the DAUK country committee just a year ago, but has already witnessed a substantial increase in membership into the hundreds since the November general election.
The Caucus recently formed a Legislative Committee within the group to more actively track and respond to legislation happening back in the US, on both local and national levels.
“Even though we live overseas, it is important that we remain engaged in our government,” says Christa Bosch, DAUK Women’s Caucus Legislative Committee Chair. “We provide actions for Women’s Caucus members to take, whether it’s by writing and circulating scripts to use in calling Members of Congress, or doing teach-ins on how to effectively advocate issues with Congressional representatives.”
To date, the committee has laid out plans and materials for members to participate in a weekly call-in to their representatives back home focused on different issues up for debate, such as Planned Parenthood funding or support of the Affordable Care Act. Future goals include methods of activism beyond making calls and giving donations.
“American democracy only works for all of its citizens if all of its citizens are actively engaged,” says Bosch. “We didn’t lose our American citizenship when we took up residence in another country, therefore it is still our duty to remain involved regardless of where we live,” says Bosch.
The DA Global Women’s Caucus is currently working on rolling out toolkits and educational materials, and is in the planning stages to host a WebEx call with Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List leadership, along with postcard campaigns and call storms.
“We are very excited by the reaction we are getting from Democratic women worldwide who want to do something,” says Swartz. “We are working on initiatives and need our members to voice their concerns and give us their input so that we can prioritize our actions. We want to make a difference and are convinced we will!”
For more information on the Democrats Abroad Women’s Caucus, to get involved, and to register for events and activities: http://www.democratsabroad.org/womens_caucus