Many students, faculty, staff, and members of the community celebrated International Women’s Day on Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) campus throughout the day on Mar. 8. Brooke Gilmore, director of the Deborah L. Coffin Women’s Center, began the celebration with a luncheon. President LeBlanc addressed the guest speaker, Professor Emeritus Eleanor Dunfey- Frieburger.
Dunfey-Frieburger began her speech by speaking about her childhood and how she was the only girl in a family of many boys. She spoke about her experiences with gender inequality as a way to encourage the audience members, seated at tables, to discuss their own stories. After her speech, the attendees ate lunch and spoke about their experiences with successful women at their tables.
After the luncheon, a tabling was set up in the Student’s Center. Some clubs participated in the tabling, including the International Student Association (ISA) with a table about important women from some of their home countries, Outreach with a donation table, Student Activists for Gender Equality (SAGE) with a pledging for parity banner and live music by Richard Oliver and Melanie Friese, and History Club with a trivia game about different successful women in history.
The Diversity Initiative’s Office had a table with a photo campaign in which people could get their picture taken with a professional camera holding a sign with a woman (or two) that inspires them. Photos were posted on the Facebook page.
While the tabling was happening, there was a presentation and community service event in the Hospitality Building. With the donations, attendees were able to make donation baskets to benefit the refugee groups in Manchester.
Rachael Straehle and Youssaira Akennad gave a presentation on their alternative break trip to volunteer and help in Kenya. They spoke about their experiences and the access that girls in Kenya have to education.
The final, and the most emotional part of the day was a panel of international students speaking about their limited and discouraged access to education in their home countries and their journeys to the United States. Three of the students were from Afghanistan and the fourth was from Saudi Arabia.
The panelists agreed that girls are discouraged to continue their education, and they rarely obtain master’s degrees. When trying to get higher education, women are sometimes threatened and injured to force them to stop.
The students were joined by SNHU Board of Trustee and wife to the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Janet Breslin-Smith, and Anne Barry, Executive Director of the World Affairs Council, who facilitated the panel.
After the panel, the audience saw the documentary “He Named Me Malala” about Malala Yousafzai, a girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban in Afghanistan for standing up for her right to receive an education.