Interview: Cecille Soberano

Below is an interview with Cecille Soberano, one of the communications leads for the Ottawa Women’s March. Although Ottawa is in Canda we at Bitter Blush believe that all sister marches, no matter where, are valuable members of the resistance.

Bitter Blush: Can you tell us more about your role with the Ottawa Women's March and how you got involved?

Cecille Soberano: I’m the communications and media relations coordinator for this year’s march. I participated in their 2018 march, so when I saw a social media post inviting interested volunteers to attend one of their planning meetings, I thought it was great opportunity to get involved in community organizing for a cause I’m passionate about. My professional background is in writing and editing, so offering to help with their communications tasks seemed natural.

BB: Were there any particular calls to action this year? What are they? How are they different from last year?

CS: The theme of the anniversary march this year is ending gender-based violence, which is a prevalent global issue. In Canada, approximately every six days, a woman is killed by her intimate partner.

BB: The Women's March began in the States as a response to Trump's presidency. But, why is it so important to have this march in Canada, and more importantly, in Ottawa?

CS: If we’re talking about gender-based violence in Canada, we can’t ignore the fact that Indigenous women in this country are at killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women. The number of Aboriginal women who’ve gone missing or have been murdered between 1980 and 2012 is said to be close to 4,000.

BB: Have you attended the Ottawa Women's March before? What has your experience been like?

CS: As I mentioned, I marched last year. I was with my three sons (ages 7, 9, 12) and we spent most of our time on Parliament Hill observing the other marchers and listening to the speakers address the crowd. They had so much fun seeing and reading all the protest signs and asking me questions about what some of the slogans meant. It was a great feminist teaching moment! I really enjoyed sharing the experience with them and the discussions it prompted. The atmosphere of the march was so positive and supportive too. It felt incredibly validating and safe to be among a multitude of like-minded people.

BB: What has the response from the great Ottawa community been like for the march this year?

CS: Everyone I’ve approached to help with the march has been so helpful and supportive. (At only) a day away from the march the enthusiasm online across our social media accounts (was) really high!

BB: What was the planning process for the march like?

CS: The approach this year was to start the planning early. We’ve had since before October with this year’s march. Our organizing team is diverse and includes many women’s voices. We’ve made sure to listen to every voice in the room in our planning process. Overall, it’s been such a positive learning experience for me, and I feel privileged to have organized with a wonderful team of strong women with such deep wells of knowledge.

BB: What do you hope people take away from the 2019 march?

CS: The goal of the march is to contribute to the advancement of women in Ottawa, in Canada and beyond. We want to bring greater attention to gender-based violence and other issues affecting women, girls, and other marginalized communities. My hope is that people are inspired and motivated to learn more about the issues at hand and to take action.

BB: How has the Women's march been affected by the MeToo Movement and the Time's Up movement? Is there a correlation between the Women's march and the two?

CS: I think MeToo and Time’s Up have only strengthened women’s voices. More women are coming forward to talk about their experiences because there’s a growing supportive environment for their stories. They’re being listened to and their experiences are being validated. But I imagine they also feel angry and frustrated too. Marching for what you believe in is cathartic. It can serve as a much-needed outlet, as well as a motivating force to propel action.

BB: What do you think is the future of the Ottawa Women's March?

CS: The anniversary marches will continue into the future; there are already plans here for a march in 2020. But the vision for Women’s March Ottawa as an organization is for it to continue to grow and to move beyond the march itself. We plan to collaborate with community organizations year-round to support actions that further the rights of Indigenous, Black, disabled, trans, and other marginalized women in the region.