« Eva Hesse | Main | Film Response »

12th Annual Women's Day Celebration

For my activist event, I attended the 12th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration on March 3, 2007. This event was held by the Minnesota advocates for human rights and the human rights program and the University of Minnesota at Coffman Memorial Union.
The women’s day celebration was a day long ceremony that included inspirational and informational lectures, educational films, slam poetry, music, and, my favorite part, a section of the day dedicated to all the women’s organizations in Minneapolis. Over 65 organizations set up tables in Coffman’s Great Hall, and I spent the afternoon wandering around and learning about all the opportunities available around me. I picked up pamphlets from local sexual assault and unexpected pregnancy help centers, international relief organizations, and even learned about a Minneapolis bookstore dedicated to teaching peace and unity.

The organization that held my interest the most was a group called ARC, the American Refugee Committee. The American Refugee Committee is a non-profit organization that fights against gender-based violence and aids its victims. The ARC defined gender-based violence as “violence such as sexual assault and exploitation,? and recognizes it as a weapon of war, stating that especially in conflicting societies, most people have experienced or witnessed sexual violence, and that the environments of the refugee camps are too unstable to offer the protection and safety women need. The ARC also explains that

“having lost everything in war, women and girls often feel they have no other choice but to offer sex in exchange for food or other necessities. Some mothers, desperate to survive , feel they have no recourse but to push their daughters into prostitution.?

The American Refugee Committee works to aid the women of conflict regions by offering immediate care and help, legal help, and by working to stop gender-based violence before it occurs. Currently, the ARC is present in Liberia, Thailand, Pakistan, Guinea and Darfur, and is working to set up branches in Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan and Rwanda. I asked how it was possible to help in Minneapolis and was told that there are opportunities to help raise consciousness in the American public, raise money, and find volunteers for the locations across seas that need help. To learn more about their opportunities to help, The ARC presents tours of the organization the second Tuesday of every month. To attend or find out more, you can call (612) 607-6495 or email rsvp@archq.org.

The International Women’s Day Celebration had more interesting organizations represented than time to learn about them. It was eye opening and inspiring to see how many ways different women were involved in our communities, and how many different causes they were fighting for. The event made it easy to learn about all the opportunities Minneapolis has to offer me, and to find an organization I feel strongly about and want to get involved in. I plan to pursue the American Refugee Committee, to volunteer and do what I can to help out. Without this event, it is probable that I would have never learned about the ARC and never gotten involved, and I highly recommend attending the 13th Annual International Women’s Day Celebration next year to see what else is out there.