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International Women's Day: local advocates share call to action

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TRI-CITIES, Wash. – Wednesday is International Women's Day, a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

The day also marks a call to action for gender equality, with women across the world rallying in support of women's rights.

The movement has made its way to our region. A rally and celebration in honor of International Women’s Day was held on Wednesday at John Dam Plaza in Richland.

Women's rights advocates said the current political climate has ignited women around the world continue the fight for equality.

"We've made so much progress—we’re not going to let that be taken away from us," said Ansley Gerhard, the Chair for Young Democrats of the Tri-Cities.

Gerhard said she and her organization are fighting for women's safety, equal pay, and to safeguard reproductive rights.

"The reality is—we're not equal yet," she said.

Women are disproportionately victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, Gerhard explained. According to an analysis of Justice Department data by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), only three out of every 100 rapists will ever go to jail. She wants to fight for women to be protected under the law to prevent this type of culture.

Gerhard stressed that in 2017 women still do not receive equal pay for equal work, and women’s rights advocates will continue to fight for parity.

Photographer Scott Butner offered a free photo shoot at his studio for International Women's Day and people of all ages, including Gerhard, came in wearing red as a symbol of solidarity.

Connie Dehaan said she wanted to come in for photos to celebrate Women's Day for two special ladies in her life.

"I have two granddaughters now and their future is very important to me,” she explained. “Their freedom, their rights to make decisions, to have equal pay, and I want them to be treated with respect."

Dehaan was a teen in the 60s and early 70s and she watched as the Women's Rights Movement was making headlines.

"I was there when women were burning their bras, I lived in the D.C. area when there were marches in ‘68 and the riots, I was aware when they passed Roe v. Wade," she said.

At that time, she saw significant progress for women’s rights in the workforce and women’s reproductive rights as well.

"But I feel like all the progress we've made is being breeched by the attitudes I see from the very leaders of this country," Dehaan said.

Despite the degradation of women seen in the recent election, Dehaan said she feels strong, empowered and independent, and that she will do what she can in her life to ensure her granddaughters grow up to feel the same way too.

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