The Augustana event “normalizes” the needs of women, among other things


Augustana College hosted its second annual International Women’s Day celebration Wednesday, sharing resources and sparking conversations about women’s issues and inclusion.

The Office of International Student Scholarly Services at Rock Island College hosted the event, which was attended by nearly a dozen campus or community organizations. Director Xong Sony Yang said this year was largely student-led and focused on recognizing supporters of the global women’s liberation movement and the growth of related programs in the quad-cities and campus communities.

“…And we really wanted to recognize our professors, faculty and students who are women, and of course the men who support us along the way,” Yang said. “I’m really honored to recognize that.”

Lead student organizer Marthalyn Zarwolo, a senior, said running the event was challenging, but she was pleased with the outcome.

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“I hoped to create a sense of community where people can appreciate the efforts of women,” she said. “I’m really glad people came. They should embrace what we have done this year and continue to support women because we are fundamental to society.”

International Women’s Day falls on March 8th every year. This year’s slogan was “#EmbraceEquity,” which Yang says breaks down stereotypes and ensures all gender identities have a “place at the table.”

“It’s really about opening up and forging those difficult conversations and breaking down barriers,” she said. “It’s about the challenges and achievements that women have achieved so far and how we’re moving from that together.”

Many organizations promoted unique, intersectional perspectives, Yang said. For example, the “Wing Chun” martial arts practice was founded by a woman named Ng Mui and highlighted by representatives of the Quad-Cities Wing Chun Society.

As an international student from West Africa, Zarwolo sees the importance of considering women’s rights issues from a global perspective. Considering that some countries or cultures have made great strides in the last century, others still threaten or restrict women’s freedom. For example, her mother could not go to school.

“This is our campaign that will not stop here; it’s something we probably need to push further,” Zarwolo said. “I don’t care how many years it takes … it’s a gradual process, but I believe that one day the world will make it.”

The event also included free items such as stickers, bookmarks, sexual health products, lapel pins and feminine hygiene products.

A table of menstrual products caught the attention of junior Jorge Ocampo as he believes he should be more “normalized” and sees a double standard when it comes to women’s sexual and physical health.

“You have condoms all over campus, but you don’t see pads,” Ocampo said. “It is necessary; there shouldn’t be any judgment because it’s a women’s product, so I think it’s good that (the event) had them available to make people feel comfortable.”

He and his colleague Diego Andon, a senior, agreed that men should actively celebrate International Women’s Day and also advocate for gender equality.

“I think it’s important to take a moment to always look back and understand more about my identity and how it plays out towards women and how I understand these issues,” he said. “It (Augie’s event) creates the first steps of awareness – not only for the student body, but also for individuals who want to learn more about women’s issues and the beauty of diversity.”

Yang hopes for more organizational and student involvement as Augie’s annual celebration continues.

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