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Panel looks at int’l women’s issues

Kaitlyn Rabach | Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Student Diversity Board (SDB) hosted an International Student Women’s Issues Panel on Thursday evening as part of Women’s Appreciation Week at Saint Mary’s College. The discussion focused on diversity and women’s rights.

Co-women’s representative junior Jean Oseberger and three international students led the panel discussion.

“I think that we often forget about International issues and focus mainly on issues that pertain to America,” Osberger said. “This discussion focused on a very large spectrum of women’s issues and I felt it was important to integrate the International Students so they could participate and be involved on campus.”

First year Aneth Batamuliza, who represented Tanzania and Rwanda, began her discussion by painting an image of daily life for women in her home countries.

“In Tanzania, you see more women staying home and not taking leadership opportunities. In both countries, you see groups of girls who do not have the same opportunities as others,” Batamuliza said. “In Rwanda, the aftermath of the genocide is still very present, but the government is taking steps to give young women more opportunities.”

Michelle Espinal, a 16-year-old from Nicaragua studying at the Saint Mary’s English Language Center, said women in her country struggle as second-class citizens.

“My country definitely sees men as superior to women,” Espinal said. “This feeling of superiority is engrained in the culture and I see it is a domino effect.”

Espinal said younger generations learn from older ones and continue these problems.

“Men abuse women and create a sense of power that is then observed by their children,” she said. “The cycle then continues on.”

In contrast to the other representatives, senior Christine Clissold of Australia said she doesn’t see many differences between women in Austrailia and the United States.

“Though many of the schools in Australia are separated on the basis of gender, we see females in leadership positions and we then model ourselves after these leaders,” Clissold said. “In my country, women are expected to be educated and go to university.”

The depictions of women in these cultures differ, but the role of media portraying the ideal beauty was a common experience among women, Clissold said.

“In Australia, media portrays the perfect woman as being sporty, blonde, blue-eyed and skinny,” Clissold said.

Batamuliza said this idea of beauty is different from those in both Tanzania and Rwanda, though the media’s influence has grown in recent years.

“One thing that was interesting for me when I came to America was the idea of dieting. In my home countries we do not diet, and we are not pushed to be of a certain weight,” Batamuliza said. “But girls tend to stick to trends that they see in the movies and magazines now.”

Clissold said the experiences of young women differ with each nation, but understanding these other cultures is essential to becoming a more global-minded citizen.

“I think it is important that other women see what is happening in the world around them because women will be taking more leadership roles in the future and they must be aware of women’s issues worldwide,” she said.

Batamuliza said discussion is the first step toward interconnectedness.

“Diversity is something that is very important. Many people intend to learn different cultures, but never really take the steps to do so,” Batamuliza said. ” Attending these panels and learning of the issues of the world is the first step toward changing the global system of women’s equality.”