Associate Features Editor
Wednesday, March 8, the Ware Center hosted Millersville’s International Women’s Day Celebration. Tables of women-owned businesses and community groups lined the lobby. Groups included My Peruvian Treasures, Planned Parenthood, Lancaster YMCA, Pocket Books Shop, Thorn & Hill Vineyard, Domestic Violence Services, Author Dr. Anaka Nnamani, Spice Island Originals, Girl Crush Company, Women’s Global Village, Revolution Jewelry, Pet Portraits by Ruth Daniels, Amy’s Om Mugs, and Maklouf Designs. I had a free and delicious vegetarian meatball meal with fries offered by Gourmet Julie’s Way.
This year’s theme was “embrace equity.” The Millersville University President’s Commission on the Status of Women invited three speakers and two performers to present. Between speakers, Senior Pianist Emily Li performed an elegant Bach Concerto; Aayusha Chapagain performed two traditional dances; and Ville Harmonics sang Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”. The three speakers were part of “Theodora Talks,” a Millersville event described as “a TED talk from a feminist perspective.”
The name Theodora comes from the empress Theodora of the Eastern Roman Byzantine empire. She was not a typical empress as she came from humble beginnings, worked as an actress, and was a single mother. During her reign, she was a popular political figure, helping shape foreign and domestic policy, freeing prostitutes, and sharing decision-making plans with Emperor Justinian. He said she was her “partner in my deliberations.”
Dr. Judith A. Wubah prefaced Theodora Talks with a speech on the importance and history of International Women’s Day.
“Since 1911, it’s been a time to celebrate social, economic, cultural, and political accomplishments made by women,” Dr. Wubah said.
It is also an opportunity to teach the difference between equity and equality. In equality, everyone receives the same resources. Equity recognizes that everyone has different needs to achieve their goals and provides the proper resources for individuals.
Dr. Wubah closed with a famous African saying: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. If you educate a woman, you educate a family.”
The first Theodora speaker was Dr. Anaka Nnamank’s talk “P.S., Dear Woman, Thou Art Phenomenal.” She shared her experience in residency as a pregnant woman who also decided to solely breastfeed her daughter and lived far from her husband at the time.
Most countries in the world have required maternity leave, excluding the United States. Women can be required to return to work months, weeks, or even a few days after giving birth. Inequities such as these are causing more women to leave leadership positions every day.
“We cannot have a conversation about equity without talking about authenticity—allowing a woman to come as she is, fully and unapologetically,” said Dr. Nnamank.
Who is responsible for making sure that can happen? All of us.
Everyone can succeed; make sure to acknowledge, validate, and advocate for the women you see doing a great job.
Millersville students senior Sami Subedi and grad student Apsara Uprety spoke of their experience as female Nepali Immigrants. Nepalis lack many rights we have in America, such as voting rights and economic independence. Male education is prioritized, while women are expected to remain at home. Sami pays homage to her mother, who married before the age of 15 and worked as a housewife, mother, and farmer. Despite never receiving an education, she taught her children the alphabet and everything she taught herself.
“To forge a world where women believe in themselves is a struggle,” announces Subedi, “and supporting a world for immigrant women just to have a basic life here can be even harder”.
Be an ally and take time to listen to women. They may tell their story, and you will better understand what they need and how to help them.
“We should celebrate what has been done but advocate for what can still be changed,” said Uprety.
Uprety read an original poem, “To the Cruel Society.” a woman’s response to patriarchal expectations and perspectives of herself.
Subedi finished with her poem “Home,” about brave immigrant women and mothers.
Local artist Keisha Finnie spoke for the third and final Theodora Talk. She had difficulty starting her career as a self-taught artist with little exposure.
“It wasn’t until I was contacted by a black and female-owned gallery that I really started to see the lack of equity for women of color and women who lacked a formal education.”
Her career took off after creating her “Say Their Names” mural in Lancaster, honoring George Floyd and minority victims of police brutality. She currently has murals around businesses in Lancaster and an exhibit in the Ware Center.
“The world looks to artists to spark change. Some of the ways equity and the arts can be improved is by paying fair wages, increasing opportunity, resources, and art history diversity because representation matters, as do equal opportunities and consideration for all artists regardless of education,” Finnie said.
She concluded by stating, “Art and equity go hand in hand. When sharing the history of other black women of the past and present, our message can only be elevated to its peak when we all do our part.”
The International Women’s Day Celebration was just the beginning of many great events by Millersville to Celebrate National Women’s Month. International Women’s day is a great day to specifically recognize women, what they’ve done, and what they go through. But, appreciation shouldn’t be limited to one day or one month, be sure to advocate for women daily and “embrace equity.”