By: Teresa Pavia | April 22, 2021
The SUNY Student Assembly held their first ever Women’s March at the New York State Capitol on April 11, attracting the presence of students from local colleges, Albany residents, and Albany area government officials.
The march was organized by Mashaal Bhatti, Chief of Staff for the UAlbany SA, and Gabby Lerner, a student from SUNY Empire and the Vice-Chair of State-Operated Campuses at SUNY SA. The rally called attention to the various issues women face in society today.
In regards to women’s issues, Bhatti stated that “sometimes campuses and administrators, and even politicians forget the level of inequity that exists in our society, on campus, off campus, and they don’t keep us in the loop when they make these big policy decisions. That’s what we’re trying to bring visibility to.”
Of the issues highlighted was the experience of women of color and of those in the LGBTQ+ community.
“Too often women have faced intersecting disadvantages'', Lerner stated. “We meet today in solidarity. To overcome these disparities. We meet to rise and unite, around one goal of advancing women’s needs on every single SUNY campus.”
Students gathered at New York State Capital lawn for Women's March
Beyond the general theme of womens’ empowerment, almost every speaker called for the need to more seriously address sexual assault on campus.
A 2018 report of sexual violence on college campuses in New York State found that UAlbany had the highest total reports out of any SUNY.
A supporter in the crowd, junior Paige O’Brien stated simply, “Predators shouldn’t be able to stay on college campuses.”
Many also brought attention to the growing calls for more accessible menstrual health products.
“We need greater funding for free women's menstrual products across all of our campuses” Lerner said.
Among student speakers, a number of local elected officials came out to advocate for the movement. Susan Rizzo, the first woman to ever serve as Albany County Comptroller, talked about her experience as a woman in the workforce, saying “Women underestimate their value. Know your value.”
UAlbany alumni and Common Council Members Sonia Fredrick, representing Ward 1, and Owusu Anane, representing Ward 10, also attended to voice their support.
Frederick brought attention to her experience as the youngest member and the first Latina member to ever serve on the Common Council.
“I had to learn for myself that regardless of how you look, if you look different, if you're a woman, if you're a woman of color, you need to stand out there and be proud of who you are, and be loud,” Frederick said. “Be bold, be willing to talk about your ideas. Because your ideas matter.”
Students from SUNY Albany, Empire, and Polytech came to show their support while others were able to stream the event live from both the SUNY SA and SUNY Women’s Instagram (@sunysa and @suny.women respectively).