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The Scarlet & Black

International women’s week links global development and feminism

This Sunday will mark International Women’s Day, which has been observed by the United Nations since 1975. Grinnell celebrated the 40th International Women’s Day with an entire week of programming, called International Women’s Week.

The week of programming was organized by the Oxfam club, Grinnell’s branch of an organization dedicated to eliminating poverty and educating the public on global development. At the beginning of the semester, club members discussed events they wanted to coordinate throughout the semester and Nina Galanter ’18, along with other club members, became interested in International Women’s Day because of the important role women play in the developing world.

“A lot of people often view women’s rights or women’s issues as this separate thing and then there’s global development and poverty,” Galanter said. “In reality, when you tackle poverty, you’re tackling women’s rights. And when you’re tackling women’s rights, you’re helping end poverty … We really wanted to focus on the idea that these two things are not really separate.”

To honor the significance of women, International Women’s Week included a group discussion with a panel discussing the role women play in the global economy, a pub night, a Women’s Water Walk hosted with Iowater and a documentary screening of “To Educate a Girl” hosted with the Grinnell Cinephiles. According to Galanter, Oxfam members wanted to bring awareness to the role of educating women in alleviating poverty in the developing world. The Intersectional Feminist Alliance also hung a poster about women’s history in the JRC lobby in honor of the week.

Lily Galloway ’17, one of the leaders of the Intersectional Feminist Alliance, felt that the poster would help educate students on women in history who are often overlooked.

“We decided to put our Women in History poster together because often feminist history is very Eurocentric,” Galloway wrote in an email to The S&B. “We wanted to bring info to the campus community about the accomplishments of women from around the world. The 56 women in our poster represent a huge variety of fields, countries and time periods.”

On Wednesday, March 4, a Women in the Global Economy discussion panel called on professors and students to draw from their own experiences in both the developing and the developed world. To prepare for the panel, members from Oxfam invited international students from Zimbabwe, Tanzania and India to share their views on global development based on their experiences in their home countries.

Professors from anthropology, economics, political science and global development studies departments were also invited to discuss what they have observed in conducting their research. They discussed both quantitative research about European countries and qualitative studies in Kenya and Mali.

Attendees were also invited to ask students and professors questions about their experiences and research. The discussion that ensued focused on how corruption and the wage gap between men and women in low-income countries contribute to the cycle of poverty. Several members of the panel also referenced the way in which colonialism effects the political role of women in developing nations.

Phillip Gemmel ’17 decided to attend the event because he was interested to hear how other countries struggle and cope with inequality in the workforce.

“I liked hearing all the different perspectives, but I also think it lacked this ‘so what’ piece,” Gemmel said. “I was wondering if there was a way to do even anything without bringing in corporate that would totally destroy [a country’s economy].”

Despite some difficulty in finding useful applications of global development theories for change, International Women’s Week was still successful in raising awareness about women’s rights in general. Galanter felt that the week was an important step in connecting Grinnell to larger issues.

“I got into the idea of trying to bring the broader world and global issues to Grinnell through International Women’s Week,” she said.

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