By Lizette Chavez, South Kern Sol

(Bakersfield, Ca. January 21,2020)-Nearly 4,000 people of all ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations and gender identities showed up to the third annual Women’s March in Kern County in support of a myriad of issues and policies.

Organizers of the event said they hoped for a large turnout given the political climate, with an election year, impeachment hearings and talks of war. However, speakers emphasized one main point: equality for women.

“We will never have peace if we don’t have power,” civil rights activist Dolores Huerta said. “Women do not have equal rights and that’s got to change!”

The thousands of men, women and children took to the streets near Mill Creek Park and marched a new route that was nearly a mile. The group chanted phrases like, “My body, my choice,” and “This is what democracy looks like.”

Women’s rights activists mentioned the need for more representation in politics and policy making decisions and the need for the pay gap to be closed.

Danita Ramos, a staffer with Bitwise Industries — a company that focuses on growing the technology industry in “underdog” areas — touched on these topics and spoke about Bitwise’s vision for Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield.

“I am Mexican — Mexican-American — and that’s my superpower,” Ramos said, “Bitwise Industries is focused on empowering a diverse workforce, [and] equitable wages.”

Many youth attended the march, ready to become more civically engaged.

Paola Garcia, 17, was eager to march in unity with other community members.

“I love walking around with different people, marching for women’s rights with everybody — women, men, kids, the elderly, and all coming together for one cause,” Garcia said.

Foothill students Marissa Araunjo, 16, and Yesenia Hernandez, 16, attended the march for the first time. They shared their reasoning for marching. They cited equality, poverty, and school shootings as some of the reasons for attending.

Immigration was a prevalent reason for participating for Hernandez. She shared the stress and impact ICE raids and deportations have had on her school and community. She said her community is in a constant state of worry, while dealing with the effects of separations, leaving some families with no income, housing or food.

“Both of my parents are migrants, and they came over here to give me and my older brothers a better life, and it’s hard seeing them work in the fields,” Hernandez. “It’s scary not knowing if your parents are going to come back or not, (waiting for the) day you’re going to get a phone call, and it’s your parents calling you [to tell you] that they’re not coming home.”

Hernandez shared one of the most stress inducing problems young people have is the helplessness they feel in having no control over what occurs and being ignored.

“What are we going to do?” Hernandez asked. “We’re all just kids. We rely on our parents to come back with the money to feed us and support us.”

She continued: “Some try to fight yes, but who’s listening? Not a lot of people do. That’s why I’m here to support all the kids who’ve lost their parents and try to make some sort of impact. [Politicians] say ‘you’re the future’ but they don’t listen to us.”

The event included a lineup of speaker, musical performances, vendors and food for participants to enjoy.