It’s quite overwhelming trying to figure out exactly how to enact change after such a divisive election. I know many of us are asking ourselves, ‘What can we do?’. After marching on Saturday and witnessing the incredible energy and sense of community, I was so inspired to see how women were the catalyst for peaceful change.

I find it so ironic that women gave birth and raised all of us, yet there are those that want to diminish their value. One of things I take away from having children is how precious life is. Whatever we do while we are alive has to count. I think that once you’ve given birth, you don’t take anyone for granted anymore. This is not a rehearsal; this is it.

On Saturday morning, as I prepared to head into the city to march, I kept thinking about my friend Cleo Wade’s poem, “Baby, you are strongest flower that ever grew. Remember that when the weather changes." Women really shoulder so much and often take ourselves for granted, but the truth is, we do so much. I think women’s strength is also found in our fragility, our sensitivity, and our empathy.

Maria Cornejo, second to right, at the Women's March.

There was incredible energy at the march. I was struck by how everyone was so polite, so inclusive, and so respectful to one another. It was such an uplifting experience to be a part of. Grandmothers, teenagers, babies, men, all different ages and races were surrounding us all. It was striking that this huge cross-section of our country was able to march together so peacefully for so many different causes. We’re all so complex. I’m a woman who is a mother, an immigrant, a political refugee, an American citizen, a small business owner, and a climate change believer. I think we are all such a diverse mix of people and the unity I witnessed at the march gave me hope and inspired me to keep pushing forward for the things we believe in. This is truly what democracy looks like.

I grew up in Chile under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. My parents were prosecuted for disagreeing with the government and we were forced to flee the country as a result. While I may not have fully understood this at the time, it was a real ‘baptism by fire’ experience for my appreciation of the power of democracy. I think being socially active is so important. It’s ingrained in me as a political refugee. Freely voicing our different opinions is part of our rights as U.S. citizens and it’s something I don’t take for granted given my life experiences. Freedom of speech is an incredible gift and that’s one of the many things I love about America. This country welcomed me twenty years ago into its community. I became a citizen five years ago so that I could finally vote.

I really believe there’s strength in community and that you are only as strong as the people around you. People forget that in this day and age, it’s about having empathy for your fellow humans. We all need to understand what happened to make people so reactive and negative in the last few years in order to move forward. My hope is that we can bring people together out of all of this. One of the things I’m most worried about is that we all silently entrench ourselves in our own bubbles. The marches across the world really helped assure me that people are able to come together. It was hard to not be moved by the amount of unity and compassion I saw on Saturday, not only in New York and Washington D.C., but across the entire world.

This march taught me that we must now act as our own accountability system to ensure we are vigilant in protecting our rights: that no one group of people gets left behind, that a woman’s worth is the same as any man’s, that a woman has a right to protect her body, have access to basic health care and that regardless of race or income, we all should have the same human rights.

This march focused us all. It turned millions of people into engaged citizens and it gave visibility and unity to so many causes that desperately needed attention. I’ve never been more proud to be a woman in this country, whose voice can and will be heard. I’m so proud we all showed up.

Meet the leaders of the Women's March: