Women Matter

Women are not only on the front lines of environmental and health crises—we are essential to the solutions.

Rhea Suh stands at a lectern speaking to a large crowd at the Women's March

Rhea Suh rallies the crowd at the Women March on Washington, D.C.


Chris Tackett/NRDC

I was honored to stand for climate action and the protection of our rights to clean air, safe water, and healthy communities at the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. The following is my speech for the event. Women are not only on the front lines of environmental and health crises—we are essential to the solutions.


Hello, my sisters and friends!

It is inspiring to see so many people standing here in solidarity.

Each one of you is an individual who made a powerful decision: a choice to be here today. You took time out of your lives, piled on buses and trains, slept on floors, paid your own way, and came to stand outside with thousands of strangers this January morning because you believe in the fundamental idea that we matter.

Women matter.

And we are NOT going to be shy about standing up for what matters to us.

Here’s what matters to me. That my daughter inherit a world that is more just and sustainable than the one that I inherited from my parents.

A world where a healthy environment is a basic right for all of us — regardless of where we live, how we vote, or what we look like.

A world where the rights of communities and sovereign nations come first and polluting interests come after.

A world where we are not as worried about a mosquito bite while we are pregnant or about a child developing asthma from dirty air.

A world where young people rise up to tackle the single greatest threat to their generation: climate change.

That’s the world we’re marching for today.

Because right now, we’re facing a government that is putting polluters first and the rest of us at risk.

Rhea Suh speaks at a lectern

NRDC president Rhea Suh speaking at the Women's March on Washington, D.C.


Chris Tackett/NRDC

Just look at Flint, an entire town poisoned by a governor who followed the Trump playbook. Poisoned by a government looking to cut corners. Poisoned by leaders who valued their bottom line more than the health of their people. Poisoned by officials who still haven’t owned up to the damage they’ve done.

Can you even imagine what it must have felt like bathing your child in brown water? Knowing that the glass of water you gave your child made her sick?

What is happening in Flint is a tragedy. And make no mistake: If this new administration and Congress get their way, we could see thousands more towns suffer the same fate.

Because that’s what anti-government, anti-science, anti-regulation, pro-polluter rhetoric boils down to: real families, real children suffering real damage.

Now it may seem like there’s not much that we as individuals can do in the face of this threat to our health, our country, and our planet.

But we are not helpless.

We are still a democracy. We should never forget our country was created by ordinary individuals who stood up for what they believed in. Our progress has depended on average citizens creating the future we want.

That’s what happened nearly 50 years ago. When our rivers were catching fire and our cities were drenched in smog, Americans poured out into the streets. We demanded that our government ensure we have clean air, clean water, and healthy communities. Those Earth Day marches led to a generation’s worth of environmental laws that improved and saved the lives of millions.

And it’s proof that people engaging in our democracy can lead to real change.

Just look at today. It was one woman in Hawaii who suggested that women should march on Washington during the inauguration. And look! Here we are, 500,000 strong!

One woman turns into one march, and one march turns into an entire movement.

That’s a powerful thing. And it means that as strong as this administration may think it is, we will always be stronger. And even if it doesn’t feel that way, the president works for us.

So let’s prove that our natural world belongs to no single individual.

That clean water has no political party.

That no corporation owns clean air.

And let’s never forget that one person, one rally, one march, and one movement can make all the difference in the world.

Thank you all so much.

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