International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of March every year, providing an opportunity for everyone to promote gender equality and commemorate women’s achievements. Dating back to the 1900s, the idea for IWD was proposed at the Second Socialist Women’s Conference (held in Copenhagen in 1910) by Luise Zietz, the first ever woman to occupy a post on the executive committee of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, and Clara Zetkin, who is known for her activism in women’s rights movements. Celebrated for the first time on the 19th of March, 1911 in few countries, IWD was moved to the 8th in 1913, and was acknowledged by the United Nations 62 years later, in 1975.
This Thursday, St Andrews contributes to the tradition with its very own International Women’s Day celebration in the Union. The Saint sat down with co-organizer and SRC Member for Gender Equality Brianna Chu to preview what there is to expect, ranging from artistic performances to speeches.
“Last year, two fourth years organised an event after the Women’s March, with speakers from the university. It was going to be in St Mary’s Quad, but then it started raining, and they had to find somewhere else to move impromptu. It was a fun event that went very well, so I decided I’d try to follow their footsteps”, Ms Chu remembered. Her aim was to collaborate with as many societies focused on gender issues as possible, and create an all-inclusive IWD. She began with Women for Women International, who contributed to last year’s event with advertising. At the beginning of semester two, a meeting was held with six societies willing to participate: the Feminist Society of St Andrews, Her Choice, For Her, Sexpression, HeforShe St Andrews, and Women for Women International. “We had a productive meeting where we reached the consensus that these groups should work together more, and International Women’s Day was the right opportunity. I hope collaborations like this can go on into the future.”
Professor Sally Mapstone, the university’s principal, will be opening the event. She will be followed by the current Member for Racial Equality, Tomisin Animashaun. The Equality Representative for the School of English, Dr. Katie Garner has agreed to speak: she will be talking about Angela Carter’s Writing from the Front Line and tying it into her own life. Secretary of the St Andrews Muslim Students’ Association Nayaab Babbar has also volunteered to participate.
Sexpression suggested and provided the details for Emily Yates from Enhance the UK, the only speaker from outside the university, to address disability and sexuality. Her Choice representative Marisa McVey will talk about abortions in Ireland. HeforShe will be contributing with a photography exhibition, depicting men holding up signs of why they are “HeforShe”. This will be on loop as a projection on the 601 side of the venue. “We will not be using the stage at all, we just needed the space. Speakers will just be using the floor and talking, it will be a very friendly and welcoming environment. It’s necessary to help people break down preconceptions that the event is going to be formal. It will be very chill”, said Ms Chu.
Kate O’Sullivan, co-ordinator for FemSoc is going to talk about the feminist history of St Andrews. Anna Lloyd, Member for Students with Disabilities will be performing slam poetry about unseen disabilities. President of the School of International Relations Sarah Gharib will discuss intersectionality. The Feminist Society will then perform c. fifty minutes of excerpts from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.
Katie Hill and Anna Atwell will be representing For Her, with the former discussing the society’s objectives in general, and the latter focusing on how to be an emotionally supportive friend. Ms Atwell, besides being the head of For Her, is also a training officer for Nightline and has plenty of experience to share. “Loui Marchant, VP for Women for Women Int. has helped me a lot with organizing; for instance, she helped us contact The Hummingbirds and The Accidentals, two all-female a cappella groups to end the event with a bang”, Ms Chu concluded.
As SRC Member for Gender Equality, Ms Chu noted, “Sometimes you do as much as you can, but it does not always have the effect you aim for. You overhear people say that SRC members are unnecessary, that they don’t do anything. I believe this event should prove even to the most sceptical wrong. I hope people come and enjoy this event, and the societies we got continue to collaborate with each other. That would be a high note for me to end my SRC membership.”