SAN ANTONIO – Approximately 250 marchers participated in a march and rally in observance of International Women’s Day here, emphasizing themes of equality, peace, education and dignity. The march route was about two miles long, beginning at Elmendorf Park and ending at Plaza Guadalupe on the city’s west side, where a number of speakers and dance performers took their turns on stage.

Local folksinger, teacher, and city councilwoman Patti Radle began the rally by leading the crowd in a sing-along of a song she penned titled, “No People Over Profits,” in which she criticizes corporate injustices ranging from the bias of the local daily newspaper to Nike shoes. Afterwards, four of her students gave an abridged theatrical presentation of Sojourner Truth’s famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” which criticizes the hypocrisy of abolitionists who were against suffrage.

Speaker Sarwat Husain of the San Antonio chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations addressed a number issues, including the increase in sexual assaults by American male military personnel against women in the armed forces dating from the beginning of the war against Iraq, and the lack of official response to these reports. She added that sexual assaults by servicemen increase during wartime. Her overall tone, however, was one of hope. She urged women to seek better education, adding, “Take care of yourself. We can be more powerful, and, when we have that power, no one can hurt us. It is your duty.”

Maria Luisa, coordinator and co-founder of Austin-based Inmigrantes Latinos En Accion, encouraged women to consider leadership roles in their communities. She related her own story of how she became a leader of her immigrant rights group based in Austin. “I learned that if I could organize a birthday party for my child, then I could organize a meeting for immigrant rights,” she told participants.

Grace Botello, a health care worker, emphasized the need for better funding of programs to intervene and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among women who are caught in the exploitative world of sex trafficking. She also said, “Ten out of ten women I’ve encountered don’t want to be in that line of work.”

Patricia Castillo, who served as emcee for the program, announced that Councilman Richard Perez of District 4 recently secured funds for the Peace Initiative, a program that earmarks money for education about violence in teen dating.

Linda Tippens of San Antonio Fighting back stressed the need for unity among women. “We’re doing this for the women of the world,” she said. She added, “I am a Black woman, and I am proud of it,” and addressed such issues as the effects of neo-colonization, abuse, and imprisonment on women.

Nadine Saliba of the Arab and International Women’s Association identified patriarchy as a common factor between the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She dew parallels between the two situations, pointing out that women are the group that suffer most in both cases.

The Bill of Rights Defense Coalition circulated a petition calling for a resolution to be passed by the city council against the Patriot Act. Such a resolution has already been passed in Dallas. San Marcos came one vote short of passage.

The event was organized by a coalition of peace and women’s groups, including Gemini Ink, The Peace Center, The Battered Women’s Shelter, San Antonio Fighting Back, Fuerza Unida and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.

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