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Historic women acknowledged

Sonjiala Hotchkiss

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The Students for International Awareness presented mini-lectures under the umbrella title “Influential Women in the World” in honor of Women’s History Month. The recently-formed campus club held its first event in a corner classroom in the C building March 29.

Eric Henson opened the event with a spoken word performance of a poem he wrote in tribute to fellow student Diana Gonzalez, who was murdered on campus last year. The presentations that followed focused on how women have dealt with conflict and adversity.

Students Brooke Heller and Liam Ferrer gave a presentation on Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, interspersing their commentary with brief video clips about the leader and her country.

Johnson-Sirleaf became the first female elected head of state in Africa when the people of Liberia chose her as their president in 2006.

“(Johnson-Sirleaf) broadened the definition of rape and increased the penalties,” Ferrer said.

The student presenters highlighted the fact that the women featured were young, sometimes not yet in their 20s, when they took up active participation in the struggle for democracy and free expression.

Ariana Maraes showed a picture of an achingly young Dilma Rousseff as she spoke of Rousseff’s decision to take up arms in the late 1960s in opposition to the military-controlled regime in Brazil.

Dilma Rousseff became the first female president of Brazil in 2010.

Maraes said the membership of Students for International Awareness was very diverse and that she had joined the club because she enjoyed learning about other cultures.

Political science major Maram Mahajna said she chose to speak about Tansu Ciller, the first female prime minister of Turkey from 1993 to 1996, because she was fascinated by a woman who could win office in a predominantly Muslim country while running on a secular platform.

“I wanted to come [to this event] because I thought it would be really diverse and it was,” student Hannia Hudec said. “I wasn’t expecting to hear about a woman in Turkey.”

Philosophy major David Curtis said learning about Iranian graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi helped to humanize the people of a country about whom Americans didn’t know that much.

“She’s not a president or anything like that,” Curtis said of Satrapi. “She’s just a simple artist and activist.”

Markese Jordan closed out the presentations with a quote from Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi: “Regime change can be temporary, but value change is a long-term business. We want the values in our country to be changed.”

The Students for International Awareness meet every Friday at 12:30 p.m. in room R-116. For information about upcoming events visit their blog at www.studentsforinternationalawareness.blogspot.com.

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Historic women acknowledged