University commemorates International Women’s Day

The event featured speeches, panels, art, poetry, performances and workshops.

Liala Helal

Human rights activist Mary Hunt said she sees the “big picture” on women’s rights around the world.

On March 12, she joined a group of advocates to explain the gap in women’s rights worldwide.

With an audience of approximately 500 people, the discussions highlighted the 10th annual International Women’s Day celebration on campus, which was organized to celebrate women’s achievements and work for universal women’s rights.

“Through this event, we are celebrating women’s accomplishments and inspiring people to keep working, because we still have so much to work on,” said Hunt, a women’s program associate for Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights.

The event featured speeches, performances, panels and workshops discussing progression toward women’s rights as well as the 10 parts of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995.

Approximately 75 volunteers from the University and the community helped organize the event, said Joanna O’Connell, a University professor in the Spanish and Portuguese department.

“I’m very excited to see so many students get involved,” she said.

Cheryl Thomas, an event organizer and women’s rights program director for Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, said the event wouldn’t have been the same without the University’s help.

“The University gives it an amazing dynamic that we can’t do ourselves,” she said.

This year’s celebration remembered the signing of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995, during which more than 180 countries gathered to create a document that addressed the issues of women worldwide.

The platform was meant to ask people and governments to recognize the rights of women, and this year’s event analyzed many concerns women had at the end of the 20th century.

The panels and workshops addressed issues such as poverty, education and training, health, violence against women, human rights of women and discrimination of female children.

The event also used art and poetry to highlight main points. South African artist Jane Evershed shared her poems and colorful paintings about human rights.

Thomas and Hunt said speeches from the female leaders at the event were very inspiring.

“I got to meet people I’ve only heard of,” Thomas said.

Female dancers from Ananya Dance Theatre performed an expressive Indian dance as interpretations of women’s rights at the end of the event.

“I hope (attendees) were inspired to do more action and found ways to do so,”

Hunt said. “There were lots of good ideas of things they can do to make women’s rights more real and more local, and ways to strengthen it in our own lives.”