The national Women’s March organization, roiled in recent months by allegations of anti-Semitism and infighting, has taken another hit: The group representing international chapters is severing ties and partnering with a new organization.
Women’s March Global, which has helped plan more than 300 events in 34 countries over the past three years, is now working with Women’s March Sister Network, a coalition of local women’s march groups that parted ways with the national organization late last year.
The split marks the largest fissure within the movement to occur since leaders of the national group, Women’s March Inc., were alleged to have made anti-Semitic comments and refused to denounce controversial minister Louis Farrakhan. The controversy led sponsors like the Democratic National Committee to pull support, and revealed tensions between the national organization and many of its local chapters.
Women’s March Global head Uma Mishra-Newbery said the decision was based not only on the Farrakhan controversy, but also on Women’s March Inc.’s lack of support for the international chapters.
"We've waited, really for the past year, and we've tried to work to build those bridges and it just hasn't happened,” Mishra-Newbery told The Daily Beast. “And there are too many critical issues in the wings that we need to act on, where we need really committed partnerships to be able to move those forward.”
The two groups have always had separate boards and funding structures, but previously worked together on messaging and planning. Mishra-Newbery’s group has secured its own financial sponsor, the nonprofit accelerator Tides, and is in the process of incorporating as a tax-exempt nonprofit. Its website still shares the same color scheme and logo as the national organization, but both groups have scrubbed mentions of the other from their respective websites.
Mishra-Newbery said she informed the national organization of her plans to cut ties after Women’s March Inc. co-director Tamika Mallory appeared on The View last month and refused to disavow Farrakhan.
Mishra-Newbery said multiple international chapters called her afterward to express their disappointment with the interview and the national organization’s overall handling of the controversy. At the time, her organization released a brief statement emphasizing their independence from Women’s March Inc. but has since taken the additional steps to distance itself.
“We have been in crisis communications for the last year and it’s really exhausting,” Mishra-Newbery said in an interview last week. “It’s not only exhausting for us as an organization, but it’s also exhausting for our network of chapters who are all volunteers, who when they organize an event have to respond anti-Semitism allegations against Women’s March Inc.”
In a statement, the national organization said the movement is about “the millions of women across America and around the world who organize and march for justice, freedom, and equality for everyone.”
“Women’s March, Inc. and Women’s March Global organizations have always been separate entities with separate boards, staff and chapter structures,” the organization said. “We strongly support all women and allies fighting for justice across the globe."
Multiple local chapters also distanced themselves from the national organization in the wake of the controversy. The San Diego, Florida and New York women’s marches have specified that they do not have a formal relationship with Women’s March Inc., while New Orleans and Chicago organizers scrapped their 2019 events entirely.
Women’s March Inc. is currently in a trademark dispute with several of these chapters over use of the women’s march name.
In addition, some new groups that have sprung up are not working under the national banner. Emi Guereca, the head of Women’s March Los Angeles, started the Women’s March Sister Network in 2017. She says she attempted to work with Mallory’s group until late last year, when she became frustrated with the board’s failure to include local leaders. Her independent network currently has 14 chapters and is now the official U.S. partner of Mishra-Newbery’s group.
“We were hoping that Women’s March Inc. would grow into this really national organization, where the chapters that were doing the work on the ground would be included in decision-making,” she said. “And now we’re three years in and none of that has happened. So at that point, we needed to [make] that decision that we need to build out this organization on our own.”
Guereca said Women’s March Sister Network would be focused on helping elect female candidates in 2020. Mishra-Newbery, meanwhile, said Women’s March Global will continue much as it has in the past, partnering with international organizations to spotlight various women’s issues. This year, they are focused on combating violence against women and ending male guardianship in Saudi Arabia.
Will their chapters still be marching in January of next year to mark the fourth anniversary of the original, historic gathering?
“Absolutely,” she said.