Women’s celebration unites, educates

by Ada Simanduyeva

Hoping to unite and educate women on issues facing them in the coming millennium, the Fifth Annual Celebration of International Women’s Day, held Saturday at the St. Paul Student Center, provided discussions and workshops sponsored by 40 local organizations.
Hundreds of women attended the program that allowed women and University student groups to learn about issues such as women’s human rights, violence against women and women in the work force.
“As a Western white feminist, I really need to gain international perspective on how other cultures and other women from less-privileged nations view their roles,” said Eleonore Wesserle, University natural sciences sophomore.
Wesserle said she feels people in the United States need to be educated because many have “skewed ideas” about the needs of people in other countries.
To set the record straight, event volunteers set up a variety of specified topics to elicit discussion aimed at enlightening participants.
“This is a community event, and we have volunteers who are students, professional people, as well as retired individuals, to give their time to ensure that this is a successful event,” said Malinda Schmiechen, the program associate of the Women’s Human Rights program at the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights.
Schmiechen said the organizations tried to provide workshops that would meet various needs of individuals, thus the 30 workshops from serious issues like battered women to entertaining activities like “Poetry Slam,” dancing and singing.
One workshop explained in detail the difficult steps an immigrant woman needs to take to file an abuse claim against an attacker.
“When it comes to violence against women, there are no developed countries,” said speaker Kathleen Graham.
Another speaker urged the audience to sign a petition to U.S. Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn. The senator has not publicly supported the Women’s Convention’s attempts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.
Women’s labor rights also drew concerns at the event. One workshop focused on adolescent girls working at sweatshops in Central America.
Led by members of YO!, a youth project against child labor and sweatshops, the seminar concentrated on educating the public about the working conditions that surround children who are forced into labor. The speakers urged the public to write letters to such companies as Nike and Gap to ask them for improvement of work conditions in sweatshops.
Jena Luedtke, University family social science major, said she feels everyone should be aware of women’s issues around the world. She came to the event with her mother, Charlotte Johnson.
“Jena is always looking for more awareness, more education for women’s rights, and she is very active, so I guess that’s what she wants out of this,” Johnson said. “I know that’s what she is going to get out of it.”
Although Johnson also wanted to get more awareness out of the event, she said spending a day with her daughter mattered most to her.

Ada Simanduyeva welcomes comments at [email protected].