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SMC students share conference experience

Jillian Barwick | Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Three Saint Mary’s students shared the insights they gained from attending an international women’s issues conference this summer at a presentation held at the Student Center on Wednesday.

“Global Women’s World Congress: SMC Student Reflections and Experiences” offered Abby Henning, Alayne Riege and Gen Spittler a platform to discuss their experience at the Global Women’s World Congress in Ottawa, Canada, this July.

Sonalini Sapra, professor of political science and women’s studies, said the women ventured to Canada to get a closer look at the field of women’s studies and activism in a global context.

“I really wanted students to be exposed to global women’s issues,” Sapra said. “Thanks to the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL), I was able to take the three students with me to experience these issues firsthand. CWIL provided the funding for them to join me at the conference.”

The 30th annual conference welcomed 2,000 attendees and 800 presenters from 92 countries, focusing on a variety of women’s issues, including militarism, fundamentalism and neo-liberalism.

“The conference did a great job of addressing some of the issues women’s conferences leave off the table normally,” Sapra said. “Issues like inclusivity, the creation of Young Women’s Leadership Teams and panels about aboriginal women’s rights were discussed that are not usually brought up.”

Riege, a senior Psychology and Women’s Studies double major, said she was especially intrigued by the discussion of aboriginal women in Canada and the resemblance they bore to Native Americans in the United States.

“We participated in a solidarity march in support of the 582 missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls in Canada,” Riege said. “This topic was a focal point of the conference.”

Spittler, a junior Nursing and Women’s Studies major, said being in the presence of such influential figures and activists had an immense impact on the students.

“In the morning we would go to the main conference and listen to some amazing feminists,” Spittler said. “Listening to some of their experiences was definitely inspiring.”

Spittler said the conference highlighted the need for young women to continue the work of the women’s rights movement.

“I realized that there are definitely not enough young feminists in the world after attending this conference,” she said.