Young people taking charge at the Concord Women’s March 

  • Grace Murray, 13, of Concord stands with her sign at the 3rd annual Women’s March at the State House on Saturday, january 19, 2019. Murray came with her younger sister and father to hear the speakers. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Grace Murray, 13, of Concord stands with her sign at the third annual Women’€™s March at the State House on Saturday. Murray came with her younger sister and father to hear the speakers. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Elizabeth Williams, of Nelson, carries a sign out in front of the third annual Women’s March at the State House in Concord on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Women gather at the third annual Women’s March at the State House in Concord on Saturday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/19/2019 8:10:30 PM

Thirteen-year-old Grace Murray wants to be an engineer for NASA when she grows up.

Murray, of Concord, is passionate about space – she loves science and learning about other planets, galaxies and solar systems. She said she wants to work hard to make the world the best it can be.

But she said she fears one day she could be judged for her gender over her capabilities.

“If I was to apply for a job and a man applied for the same job and we were equally qualified, I wouldn’t want him to get the job just because he’s a man,” Murray said, standing on a snow bank outside the State House on Saturday at the Women’s March.

Murray said issues like gender discrimination, pay inequality and women’s reproductive rights were what drew her to the event for the first time this weekend.

She said she hoped more young people would become politically active and let their voices be heard, too.

“A lot of my friends, they don’t really talk about these issues, but I think we should,” she said. “It’s really empowering to see people standing up for what they believe in and trying to make our country a better place.”

Murray was one of hundreds of protestors – many of them young people – who crowded the State House lawn to listen to speeches from Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, as well as survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and political activists.

Many of them held colorful signs and wore clothes and facepaint with messages of empowerment. Murray’s sign said, “We shouldn’t have to protest the stuff I learn about in history.”

Jessica Hutchinson, 18, of Canterbury wore bright pink gloves and a pink sign that said, “My body, my choice.” She said she’s come every year since the marches began. Now a freshman at the University of Maine, this year was no exception.

“I like to be around people who have similar values,” she said. “It’s a very welcoming event. Even though it’s a women’s march, it’s very inclusive.”

Hutchinson said she has noticed that people are willing to speak their opinions in recent years since the marches started – especially her peers.

“I’m not sure if it’s the movements, or it’s my generation,” she said. “On social media, a lot of people get mad and share stuff and say, ‘This isn’t right.’ At the school where I go, sometimes we have protest and rallies like this. We had a Me Too march.”

Ayla Wamser, a junior at the University of New Hampshire from Dunbarton, said she definitely thinks young people have become more politically active. A lot of that comes from fear, Wamser said.

For her, it’s a fear that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, or access to birth control will be limited.

“As a woman, I think it’s a very odd feeling to realize your rights are at stake for the first time,” she said. “I was fortunate enough not to be affected by previous administrations. I didn’t even consider those were rights I could lose. But now, I’m really afraid that right to health care will be taken away.”

Leea Sarvela, a senior at Goffsown High School, said she’s been part of an organization at her school that teaches students about consent, domestic violence and sexual assault and how to maintain healthy relationships. She said she’s hoping that knowledge will help her and her peers as they navigate college.

“It’s definitely something that’s on my mind a lot – the rape culture at college, especially when alcohol is involved,” she said. “It makes you scared because you know something like that could easily happen to you.”

Many women expressed fear of being sexually assaulted or shared stories of their own assaults.

Tiffany Roberts, a sexual assault and domestic violence survivor from North Conway, spoke publicly in front of the crowd about abuse she endured from her former husband.

When Roberts, now 35, told her husband at the time that she wanted to leave in January of 2011, he emptied their joint checking account, she said. That is a common tactic used by abusers to keep women from leaving, Roberts said.

Then, while she was stuck living at home with him without the resources to leave, he raped and strangled her, she said.

Roberts survived her assaults – and was eventually able to leave the relationship. But she said many women aren’t so lucky – in 2015, she learned that her childhood friend Kare was killed, strangled to death by her child’s father.

“Her two girls now navigate this world without their loving mother,” Roberts said.

Roberts repeated statistics that have become widely spread in American culture: One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and one in five experience sexual assault.

But she said one thing that has given her hope in recent years is the women who have come forward to tell their stories.

“These days we all talk a little less about one in four, and more about the women we know and their experiences,” she said. “That is progress.”

New Hampshire Senate President Donna Soucy was speaking in front of the crowd, and she said it’s each individual person’s responsibility to educate those around them.

“Your conversations with your family and friends matter,” she said. “Raising girls who know their strength and boys who respect that strength matters.”

Elizabeth Williams, of Nelson, said the young people she has seen taking charge in the U.S. legislature has given her hope that women are making strides toward equality.

“My kids are better, and the next group will be better giving women the respect they deserve,” Williams said. “The fact that there’s so many more women who yell at the men, and more women training their sons to be better is very encouraging.”

March organizers’ goals were to have around 1,000 people at this year’s march. The first march in 2017 drew 7,000 people, said Derek Edry, Communications Manager for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

D’Vorah Kelley said she wondered why the turnout was lower than it had been in the past.

“The number of people is smaller this year,” she said. “Where is everybody who was here two years ago?”

Georgia Schill, 16, president of Goffstown High School’s Gay Straight Alliance, said creating change is about moving forward, even if not everyone agrees with your views.

“The first time I went to the women’s march, I had a bunch of men comment on something on my Instagram post about it, about how we don’t need the women’s march,  and how I shouldn’t be there, how I was stupid,” Schill said. “But I wasn’t going to be discouraged. It just gave me motivation to keep pushing and working for change. Clearly, we still need it.”

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