Interview: "Trump takes office, but in Idaho, young women are taking charge." By Joshua Watkins

"Trump takes office, but in Idaho, young women are taking charge."

By Joshua Watkins

As the Women’s March on Washington quickly approaches, taking place in Washington, D.C. the day after President Elect Trump’s inauguration, many of my friends who wished to participate are encountering an issue all too common for women and proponents of equality: lack of access. Flights are expensive. Hotels are booked up. Taking off of work is a hassle. But as with most issues of access, the selflessness of feminists passionate about providing such a space for advocates of women’s rights to be heard has resulted in sister marches throughout the country. 

In Idaho, that sister march, taking place on Saturday, has been organized by two unlikely sources: Nora Harren and Colette Raptosh haven’t even graduated high school yet. The two activists and founders of People for Unity held the first rally following President Elect Trump’s election. 

“It took place on November 12th; we put it together in three days,” Raptosh told me when we spoke on the phone. “We weren’t expecting as many people to show up as actually did.” Attendance ended at over 500 people, in part due to assistance of the Idaho Democratic Party, who supported Raptosh and Harren after hearing of the rally. “It was fantastic because we ended up with a great line of speakers from all levels—national, state, and local,” Harren said. 

The success of that rally inspired Harren and Raptosh to organize the sister march coming up. “After reading the mission statement [of the national march], I realized it was extremely relevant to Idaho, and we began the task of organizing,” Harren said. “Since there’s a national march and sister marches in each state and Puerto Rico, having one encompassing mission statement can be difficult, but the national march focuses on women’s rights and gender equity, and that sort of relates to every sister march on its own.”

Raptosh added: “We first started right after [the first rally]. We realized the impact we could make that we hadn’t realized before, and wanted to keep the momentum going. No one in Idaho had taken on the task of organizing a sister march and make sure that everyone in Idaho could participate.”

I hope this resonates and motivates people to get involved, to spread a positive message, and have a say in local government.

As their home, Idaho faces a number of daunting barriers for women’s rights that concern Harren and Raptosh. They pointed to variety of measures in which the Gem State ranks in the lower rung of states, such as reproductive rights (48th) and employment earnings (50th), as well as the fact that there’s only one Planned Parenthood facility to cover over 100,000 residents in the Treasure Valley area. Harren and Raptosh hope that the march highlights the severity of Idaho’s treatment of women’s issues. 

“I hope this resonates and motivates people to get involved, to spread a positive message, and have a say in local government,” Raptosh said. Harren added, “I want this to be a message to our community and our legislature, and all women involved in progressing such as reproductive rights, gender equity, and civil rights. The marches all over the nation is a message to the new administration, that we’re going to keep going to influence positive change.”

I asked Colette and Nora if they had encountered any challenges with their age. They had. “It’s just a bit more difficult to be young and convince people we’re legitimate, but fortunately, there are a lot of people who do have experience that have been very helpful,” Harren said. Raptosh agreed. “We’re two of five teens who are really involved, and it can be hard to work with adults who are a lot older—definitely it’s hard for them to listen or attempt to understand us at times. But the same is true for us. It’s been a great learning experience for both sides,” she said. “Being really young is both a pro and a con. The pro is that it gives people hope, or faith, because they’re seeing young people get involved. 

“We’re making connections between youth who have passion but don’t know where to go, and the people that can guide them,” Harren added. 

My message to him is the same message that I want the march to spread: push him to listen to the people.

Though much of the reaction to President Elect Trump’s Electoral College victory has been divided along partisan lines, Nora and Colette are not so entrenched in polarized ideology that they don’t see value in trying to send a positive message to the incoming president. “If I were offered a meeting with him, I would take it, and my one message to him would that as our President, it is his job to represent us as a nation, and that means representing what we’re passionate about. He needs to listen when we talk about reproductive justice, race, civil rights, environmental justice. It is his job to represent us and listen to the people, rather than just his own selfish wants,” Nora told me when I offered a hypothetical. Colette, when asked the same question, also agreed that meeting with Trump would be a moral obligation. “My message to him is the same message that I want the march to spread: push him to listen to the people. We’re going to help him, and let him know what we want—to help him listen more by embracing diversity,” she said. 

As they serve as models of aspiration for their dedication and efforts, Nora and Colette understand that being a young woman also means that understanding the world, and what you believe, can be a complex task. To help other young females, they offered recommendations for what helped them learn more about feminism, women’s rights and gender equity. “Definitely Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, which is very accessible about these ideas of race, and feminism, and privilege; also, Insecure at Last by Eve Ensler is a good place to start, or publications like Ms. Magazine or Bitch Media,” Nora suggested. Colette offered a different reading list: “I’m really into fashion and beauty, so if someone needs a publication that’s well-known and easy to get a hold of, that also shows and supports diversity, I recommend Teen Vogue. There’s always amazing stories, and the editorial staff is diverse not just in their beliefs and the articles they publish, but also the photos and visual representation.”

The Women’s March on Idaho begins at 10am at the Idaho State Capitol this Saturday, January 21st. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2iTs49c