In two weeks, it will be International Women’s Day. The official International Women’s Day website describes the day, Mar. 8, as “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women,” as well as “a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”
To celebrate the day, Goshen College will be putting on a convocation that same day and a special photo gallery event a few weeks later on Mar. 24. The photo gallery event is called “An Evening of Color.”
“I’ve been wanting to do something for International Women’s Day for a number of years, but I never had a group of international women who were as directly involved with women’s and gender issues on campus,” said Beth Martin Birky, director of women and gender studies.
The women she is referring to are Achieng Agutu, a junior, Sara Azzuni and Kendra Lozano, sophomores. Birky approached these international students after seeing each of their prowess for speaking out on both international and women’s issues in both classroom and public settings.
The photo gallery will be an exhibition of photos of international women for the Goshen College campus. Next to the photos will be a statement by the subject of the photo describing their experience as an international woman.
“Part of the purpose of the day is to celebrate women’s contributions to communities and cultures around the world,” said Birky. “Another part is tied to awareness of different issues that women face in their own context, as well as globally.”
The convocation on Mar. 8 will be an opportunity for international women to share stories and experiences that they have had.
“As international women, we feel that it is our responsibility to give a chance for international women to express their stories in freedom and safety,” said Lozano.
The “Evening of Color” event will be the first time an event like this has taken place in celebration of International Women’s Day. The goal of the photo gallery is to demonstrate the unique cultures of each of the featured women, along with their traditional attires.
“I hope that many people can be able to make it to the opening to be able to see beauty in diversity and beauty in women,” said Agutu. “This is a first-time event and so we are hoping that it can take off in the future so there is always [a celebration] on International Women’s Day.”
International Women’s Day has been around for over 100 years and continues to grow in prominence. In 2011, the day celebrated 100 years since its inception. That year, President Barack Obama declared that month to be Women’s History Month.
In 2017, International Women’s Day coincides with the call for the first Day Without Women and International Women’s Strike. This will be a day where women around the country and around the world withdraw from businesses and institutions that further harm female communities and pledging support for those that sustain them.
The students in charge of coordinating the celebration of International Women’s Day have yet to address the Day Without Women, as their main focus for this day is the celebration, though they may in the future.
The day is a celebration of women, but it is not exclusive to women. Each of the events are open to all who wish to participate.
“One of the concerns that I have with the day and with the event,” Birky said, “is that term ‘woman’ can erase the diversity of people’s experiences of their gender and potentially exclude those who don’t feel comfortable with the category of ‘woman.’”
“It’s so valuable to see how personal and individualized women’s experiences are, even as we recognize that our own experiences are embedded in cultural and social structures that shape who we are and how we live,” said Birky. “I hope that GC women from all parts of the globe see this as an opportunity to join together, share their experiences, celebrate their contributions and dream about change. I’d invite people to contact me or any of the student organizers about ways they can get involved.”