Students and staff discussed influential women of various cultures during the March session of First Friday Culture Talks in the International Involvement Center in B.D. Owens Library.
A small group of students from Nepal and Curacao spoke with IIC staff about women who they look up to in both their home countries and in the U.S. The discussion centered around women, helping kick off Women’s History Month.
Sophomore Dipika Sharma from Nepal couldn’t pinpoint just one woman who impacted her life.
“I always looked up to all women that were in my life,” Sharma said. “One way or another, they were just building me up, and I just feel like everyone was influential to me.”
Abha Niraula, a junior from Nepal, spoke about 2012 CNN Hero of the Year Pushpa Basnet. She built a place to raise children who would otherwise be living in jail with their imprisoned parents.
“She went on a trip to a prison once,” Niraula said. “She saw these kids growing up (without) the privileges kids outside had. She wanted to take care of them. So after she graduated, she went back, and that’s what she devoted her time to. Now she lives in a house with a bunch of kids and she raises them. It’s really cool.”
When the discussion turned to female figures in the U.S., students mentioned New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Niraula admires her actions as a young congresswoman, being 29 years old.
“I just love how vocal she is about everything,” Sharma said. “(She’s) so inspiring.”
International Student and Scholar Services Coordinator Ashley Henggeler turned the discussion to women’s roles when she asked how women’s roles have changed.
Niraula responded by saying women’s roles have greatly changed from when women only stayed at home and took care of the house.
“I think now a lot of women work,” Niraula said. “I think social roles are definitely changing. We’re not completely there yet, but I think women are encouraged to go out and work now more than before."
Graduate student Arpana Pokhrel shared her observations of women’s roles on campus.
“Just looking at our University, I feel like more women are in (student) leadership roles than men,” Pokhrel said.
Other women that came up in the conversation were two speakers that spoke on campus last semester, Tarana Burke and Julissa Arce. They addressed sexual assault and immigration reform.
“I think this time now is just very empowering because more women are speaking up about injustices,” Henggeler said.
Niraula added that some don’t recognize injustices women face. She said talking to her friends about being touched inappropriately by a stranger in a public place was so common it didn’t always process as a problem.
“I think injustice has been normalized for so long that people don’t realize there’s injustice going on,” Niraula said. “It’s so normal… but it shouldn’t really be happening. I think women are more comfortable speaking up about it.”
This First Friday Culture Talk had six attendees. Sharma said attendance for the events usually fluctuates; sometimes the room is full. Sometimes it isn’t.
Other University events meant to promote Women’s History Month include the Clothesline Project, speaker Debbie Dougherty and a reception recognizing influential women of Northwest.