Students in the honors program ended their senior project by hosting a women’s appreciation fair at Sneaky Park Tuesday and a panel discussion in La Fetra Lecture Hall Wednesday for women empowerment week.
Senior business administration majors Thomas Richetts and Delaney Poe, senior economics major Josh Martinez and senior physics major Joseph Eggers did presentations throughout the semester to raise awareness about women’s empowerment and related social issues.
At the end of the semester, they did a two-part event. The first part was the fair and graffiti board that was used to spread awareness and have students express their own opinions about it. The second part was open panel discussion, which gave students educational facts and an opportunity to ask questions.
“The purpose of the event is to empower women and make sure that women have a platform to speak out and have their voice be heard,” Poe said.
Poe, along with University alumna and prevention educator for the House of Ruth Taylor Marvulli and freshman child development major Kacee Jones, who lived abroad in Thailand, were invited as panel speakers.
According to Girls Not Brides, 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married worldwide, with little or no say in the matter. The panel addressed the issue by acknowledging the different cultures in different countries where the age of consent is younger than 18.
Marvulli said that in Uganda, the average age of marriage is 13, and even though the government is trying to get it outlawed, it is still hard to break traditions that has been there for centuries.
Poe added that in many Asian countries, the girls who were sold would rather burn themselves alive than continue to be raped.
“There are still lots to overcome, starting from family values,” Marvulli said. “Another factor is the demand of clients and tourists that want these services, which needs to be cracked down especially in the way they view women and children.”
They touched on the issue that the term “feminists” usually has a bad connotation, but women just want to be treated equally and be on the same playing field.
On a more positive note, the panel speakers acknowledged that an increasing number of women in Africa and China want to be more fulfilled in life.
“There are anti-feminist women who believe that women should stay home to get a men’s approval, which is fine, but ultimately we should be more understanding and support each others decision and choice,” Poe said.
Another issue, according to A World at School, is that there are 62 million girls who are denied education all over the world. One major concern is that even though it is easy for girls to get into school, it is hard to keep them in school because they do not feel safe especially after what happened to Malala Yousafzai, a children and women’s right activist who was shot in the head on the way home from school.
“We don’t want to get backlashed because this has been their tradition for many generations. We don’t want to come off as our culture is better than theirs, instead we should work from inside, immerse in their culture and ask them what they want,” Poe said.
Senior biology major Sondos Badran, who came to support her classmates, said she believed that there still needs to be radical change locally and by the government.
“My parents immigrated from Syria and I have a cousin married at 17. You can look at the numbers and facts, but you need to understand their culture and it is also their choice,” Badran said.
The panel speakers want the audience to realize that there are issues that women are facing, but there are also organizations that are working to evoke a change.
Sharon Lau can be reached at email@example.com.