Diverse crowd marches for women’s rights in Budapest

January 22, 2017

As about half a million people converged for the Women’s March on Washington, DC, on Saturday, dwarfing the turnout for the inauguration of President Donald Trump the day before, sister marches took place across U.S. and foreign cities.

In Budapest, a march started on Szabadság tér, the square outside the U.S. Embassy, and ended on the Chain Bridge over the Danube. Participants first listened to speeches on the square and then marched along the riverside before creating a human chain across the bridge linking Buda to Pest, holding hands and displaying signs calling for equal rights and respect for women. Homemade posters included slogans such as “Women of the world unite”, “Sisters united will never be defeated” and “White silence is violence.”

“Women are not sensitive in Hungary to women’s rights, with the exception of a few thousand women and men,” Kata Keveházi, ‎the Director of the Jol-Let Foundation who addressed the crowd on Szabadság tér, told the Budapest Beacon.

“Women of different generations face different challenges,” Keveházi said. “[…] The public schools strengthen the traditional gender roles, for teachers it’s evident to treat girls and boys differently. The internet spreads harassment and pornography, the beauty industry has strong influence on girls. Prostitution rose among the students as well. Adult women are under great pressure, especially in rural areas. Due to the government’s demographic propaganda, those who have just two children now can be stigmatized by communities.”

The Budapest march was organized by a group of American, Hungarian and Canadian women. The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (TASZ), Hungarian Women’s Lobby and Greenpeace offered the group organizational support. Greenpeace arranged for a drone to fly over the Danube and take a photo of the march’s participants standing across the Chain Bridge with a large banner saying “Bridges not Walls.”

Organizers estimate that between 450 and 500 people participated. The marchers were diverse, ranging from students to families with young children. Participants included many expats, as well as Hungarians.

Lisa Nóvé, one of the organizers, said: “As we marched I noticed that we picked up people along the way; people joined us. To hear them shouting in Italian, in Russian, in Spanish was pretty amazing.”

The mood was lighthearted, with the crowd thanking and cheering the police for their cooperation. Tunes such as Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” could be heard across the Chain Bridge as participants created the human chain.

Participant Katharine Boaden said: “This was my chance to show solidarity to the millions of other people across the world who share my concerns about the future and want to ensure we can live in a diverse and tolerant world.”

Budapest was not alone in the region to hold a sister march for women’s rights. Two hundred activists marched in Warsaw on Saturday and there were rallies in Prague and Sofia. As the “Bridges not walls” banner was displayed over the Danube in Budapest, a similar “Build bridges not walls” banner was hung on London’s Tower Bridge.

Budapest organizers are now looking for ways to build on the momentum and enthusiasm shown during the march and help participants become more involved in their communities. “It’s amazing all this support and energy but we have to continue in our everyday lives,” said Nóvé.