MSUM celebrates women’s history: Events aim to break barriers

People don’t usually associate women’s history with science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Maybe that’s why women’s and gender studies seniors Beatriz Castro and Puja Sharma chose those four disciplines for the theme of this year’s Women’s History Month events throughout March.

With a presentation by author and biologist Lisa Weasel, a lecture about women in sociology and another focused on Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, the events aim to break the barriers between women and male-dominated disciplines.

“There are these areas where women have not been involved, yet we know women have the knowledge and abilities to work in those areas,” said Anita Bender, Women’s Center director. “We really believe that if you don’t allow the full participation of women, then you will never have the full potential.”

Castro and Sharma said they hope providing information about women in history who have succeeded in those fields will give younger women someone to look up to.

Fitting into the theme, the women’s center will host “Soup and Seeds” on March 7, the eve of International Women’s Day. A variety of soups will be served and heirloom seeds with recycled pots will be handed out to plant. The goal is to create some excitement around organic, locally grown foods.

Screen shot 2013-03-04 at 10.38.39 PMThis month will also feature a number of other events including a documentary about transgenders, a film about sexual harassment and a lecture about women’s rights.

Environmental issues and human rights are the two main things we’re focused on, Castro said. “Our society really has taught us that feminism is about white women getting the right to vote, and that is so wrong.”

Sharma added: “We’re about contemporary issues that not only affect us but people around us. Even men can be feminists.”

To prove that point, Castro and Sharma invited two male professors to speak at this month’s events.

Bruce Roberts, an anthropology professor, will speak about Wangari Maathai and The Greenbelt Movement, which is an environmental organization Maathai formed to empower communities to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods.

“She’s a very amazing inspirational woman who came out of Kenya,” Castro said. “She worked with empowering women and planting trees in her country.”

Maathai was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the first woman in east-central Africa to earn a doctorate degree.

“(Roberts) is very passionate about conservation issues, and Wangari Maathai is one of his personal heroes, so we thought who better to talk than Dr. Roberts,” Sharma said.

Andrew Conteh, a political science professor, was also asked to speak. His lecture is titled “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”

“He has always been a strong advocate of women’s rights,” Sharma said. “He says without women’s rights, there cannot be human rights because we are all human beings first.”

All of the women being featured throughout the month of March have worked for social justice for everyone, not just women.

“They’re people who are thinking about how oppression and discrimination work in our society as a whole,” Bender said.


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