On Friday, November 4, 2016 on the Annandale campus, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) CCI participants co-sponsored a HeForShe discussion about gender equality with the NOVA Honors Club. The event was a student-led initiative designed to engage the NOVA student body in an open discussion about gender equality. From start to finish, CCI participants were involved in the event’s implementation.
NOVA Honors student, Sai Pethe, spearheaded the organization of the event with the help of the CCI Program Coordinator at NOVA, Kelly Forbes, and Pew Chowdhary, a NOVA CCI student from Bangladesh. To promote the event, Pew designed fliers and attended a Student Government town hall meeting to request funds for the collaborative panel.
Of the eight students on the panel, two were CCI students: Naik Alam from Pakistan and Kgaogelo “Kay” Mbewe from South Africa. Moises Gomez, a media student from Colombia, took photos of the speakers, and after the event Vanesa de la Cruz, a media student from Colombia, published an article about the panel discussion in the school newspaper. Moises’s photos accompanied the post. From promotion to participation to publication, the event was a collaborative success between two significant programs at NOVA.
The conversation during the event was equally noteworthy. HeForShe is a “solidarity movement” created by UN Women that is meant to engage men and boys to take action against gender inequality. When asked why she was interested in spearheading a HeForShe panel event at NOVA, Sai said she wanted to create an open dialogue between her peers about this topic. “I have always seen sexism and gender inequality around me. I saw it while growing up in India, and I see it now in the US. I believe that the more you talk about a crucial issue, the easier it is to fix it … It did not matter if [my classmates] agreed or disagreed with me; I just wanted them to talk about it.”
During the panel, the two CCI student speakers brought an international perspective to the conversation. Naik, a male student from Pakistan, discussed how NGOs in his home country are tackling women’s rights issues. Kay was also able to offer a unique perspective as a woman of color born and raised in South Africa. Adding their voices and experiences to the topic created a multidimensional discussion that took into account the concerns and approaches other countries face when dealing with gender inequality. Sai noted “Both [Naik and Kay’s] ideas and thoughts were the highlights of the panel.”
NOVA CCI participants at the Annandale and Alexandria campuses have made great strides with the Honors Club at NOVA in order to create open events for all NOVA students. Partnering with the Honors Club on campus allows for a broader reach for domestic students to work with international students, and the college as a whole feels the impact of that reach. Outside of their participation in the panel, Sai has been able to observe their commitment to the school as a whole: “[CCI participants] volunteer on campus, write for the newspaper, and engage in clubs and activities as well. Overall, I think their presence and participation makes the NOVA community better and more understanding of other cultures.”
NOVA CCI and Honors Club participants are already finalizing another co-sponsored event for January. Their Global Peacebuilding Workshop will include a panel discussion about the peacebuilding experience and an interactive activity about how to apply peacebuilding awareness skills. The event is scheduled for Friday, January 27, 2017.