From left: Eben Korankye, Kamila Ataee, Zainab Naziri, Dee Dube, Abby Connor and Mahboba Akhtarzada read poems and stories written by Afghan women. (Image credit: Rebecca LeBoeuf)

The Deborah L. Coffin Women’s Center at SNHU celebrated International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8, by hosting a variety of events that celebrate the achievements of women.

International Women’s Day is a global holiday dedicated to honoring the social, political, economic and cultural accomplishments, as well as the advancement of women.

The events throughout the day focused on highlighting these accomplishments and bringing attention to global issues that women face.

This year’s theme of International Women’s Day was “Be Bold for Change.” It was a call to action for people to stand up for women’s advancement and work to support women’s rights.

Brooke Gilmore, Director of the Women’s Center, views this theme as a way for people to think of what they can do to inspire change. “The theme is a calling on people to reflect on how they can be agents of change in their own spheres of influence,” said Gilmore.

The events kicked off with the Be Bold for Change Luncheon at noon on the second floor of the Dining Hall. This event featured keynote speaker, Kristen Golden, author of “100 Portraits of Achievement” and project director of Take our Daughters to Work Day.

Golden spoke to those at the luncheon about this project which aims to create a space for women in the workplace and inspire people to take action and organize change.

Following a student showcase in the Student Center from 2-4 p.m., afternoon breakout sessions were held in the Women’s Center to address challenges women often face in the community.

The first breakout session, entitled “I (heart) a Woman: A Cross-Gender Dialogue About Loving Our Sisters, Mothers, Daughters, Girlfriends and Friends,” was facilitated by Jada Hebra, the Chief Diversity Officer at SNHU.

Jasmine Mcfarlin, a first-year student at SNHU and office representative at the Women’s Center, participated in this breakout session. “We discussed gender roles and stigmas about genders,” said Mcfarlin. “We were able to talk about managing gender in classrooms and on an everyday basis.”

The next breakout session was “Supporting Safe Homes in Our Community,” facilitated by the World Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) of New Hampshire and Kelley Hobbes from the Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL) at SNHU. Participants put together care packages for Emily’s Place, a shelter for women in domestic violence situations.

“It’s an eye-opening experience, seeing how we can help women who are in a domestic violence situation,” said junior Amy Mercedes. “We can give them a platform to tell their stories and speak in a positive and safe way.”

The last breakout session, “Victimizing Women Through Religion: A Muslim Woman’s Perspective,” was facilitated by SNHU graduate student Youssaira Akennad. Akennad spoke out about the misconceptions of women in Islamic culture and the misinterpretations that arise from various translations of the Quran.

After the breakout sessions ended, the International Women’s day events continued in Walker Auditorium with a film screening and discussion of the documentary “Salaam Dunk.” This film focuses on the story of the American University of Iraq’s women’s basketball team.

“We want to highlight that women in various corners of the globe face different issues than we necessarily do here at home,” said Gilmore.”

International Women’s Day events concluded with the Afghan Women’s Writers Project, coordinated by senior Kamila Ataee, in the Gustafson Center. Students read different pieces of writing from Afghan women to celebrate their stories. This project aimed to highlight the unique individual experiences of women.

This is the second time the Women’s Center has hosted events to celebrate International Women’s Day. Gilmore hopes to make the day an annual celebration. “We’d like to make it a tradition that we continue honoring, as it is a global holiday,” said Gilmore.

The events throughout the day aimed to inform and educate students about global women’s issues and perspectives.

The theme of “Be Bold for Change” recognizes women who stand up for these issues and fight for what they believe is right. “Always do the best you can and continue fighting for justice for everyone,” said Mercedes.

“We all have a context in which we can make some sort of change,” said Gilmore. “Often times that means stepping up or saying the unpopular thing for the sake of what’s right.”

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