International women gather to share experiences

An intimate circle of international women gathered in the Coe Room Friday, Nov. 11 to talk about sensitive issues facing them from all corners of the world.

Women from Zimbabwe, Russia, Germany, Nigeria, Vietnam, Mexico and the United States gathered for the international women’s discussion.

The discussion group, formed by Abby Haley, Cassandra Allard and Tinashe Madamombe, was organized in accordance with their Women and Gender Studies Media in Action course. “We had to pick a larger scale topic, so we chose global women,” co-organizer Abby Haley said. “We decided to go with a consciousness-raising discussion because I think sometimes you get the most from in-depth realizations from very intimate, one-on-one settings.”

When the group gathered, the women were prompted with a few open-ended questions regarding the global atmosphere for women, but the topics quickly became very charged and personal as women began to share different insights and perspectives from all the parts of the world they were from. Given the current political and social atmosphere within the United States post-election, there was much discussion regarding how those who were minorities felt going forward. “With the whole climate, it’s very easy to feel like minorities are targeted,” co-organizer and Zimbabwe native Tinashe Madamombe said. “So when you just sit down with a couple of people who don’t echo the same feelings, that’s a good take-home.”

In addition to the election, the discussion touched on various topics related to gender, including glass ceilings, what it means to be a feminist and a comparison of social climates for women around the world.

“We wanted students to feel more comfortable with each other and understand that a lot of the issues that we’re feeling and fighting, you’re not alone in what you’re feeling,” Allard said. By creating a safe space for participants of the discussion group, the intent was to encourage intercultural communication.

“This is my last semester here and Tinashe is the first international student I’ve ever talked to,” Allard said, “so it’s like what can we do to make people feel better and more comfortable and have an open platform for students to interact?”

The women hope to be able to bridge the communication gap not only between women on campus, but for international and domestic students as a community. “Learning what I heard today has been really enlightening,” Haley said, “and it’s really important because I think a lot of times I wouldn’t have known where to go or who to talk to if I wanted to get an international perspective on feminism. So that’s why we thought this group would be really important to bring together.”

While the group has no immediate plans to meet again, the coordinators hope that something like this might continue in the future in order to bring about intercultural connections between both domestic and international students. In the meantime, students wishing to connect with international students on campus are encouraged to attend the International Student Association’s weekly Coffee Hour, which is held every Friday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the North Pod of the Memorial Union.

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