Brookdale students and employees joined forces this week to shine a light on the social, economic and human rights issues that continue to impact women in the U.S. and across the globe.
In recognition of Women’s History Month – celebrated each March – and International Women’s Day, celebrated this year on March 8, members of Brookdale’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) chapter joined representatives from Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL), Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WEST), the International Education Center, Student Life and Activities, Students for Global Citizenship and the Global Citizenship Project to host a series of events on the Lincroft campus.
The programming began on March 1 with a panel discussion titled “Celebrating Muslim Women Voices: Intersectional Identities,” held during college hour in the Student Life Center.
The expert panel was headlined by Sahar Ishtiaque Ullah, a PhD candidate in Arabic and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and co-founder of the Hijabi Monologues theater project, and Nadine Housri, a Syrian-American radiation oncologist and co-founder of Mednet.org.
The panel – also featuring PTK executive officer Sameerah Wahab, WEST president Ikrom Ibrahim, International Education Center Janice Thomas and English instructor Kelsey Maki – spoke candidly and personally about the impacts of stereotypes, stigma and cultural prejudice on Muslim women.
After giving an in-depth presentation on the negative portrayal of Muslim women in media and debunking some of the most commonly held myths – including the belief that all Muslim women are “oppressed” – Ullah explained the importance of education in the fight against prejudice.
“There is no excuse anymore for people to make the mistake of conflating Arab with Muslim, or for thinking that Islam is a country,” she said. “You can’t treat someone who is unwilling to learn. But as someone who participates in forums like these a lot, you can see that there are people out there who want to learn.”
The panel also answered a wide range of questions from the nearly 100 Brookdale students and employees in attendance, many of whom wanted to learn more about Muslim culture and how they can join in the fight to eradicate bias.
“The best way to break that bias is through education,” said Wahab, responding to a question from Brookdale student Mikaela Mazzeo. “The more people are educated, even if they are not willing to learn, if that information is presented to them in a way that they can understand it, in a way that is not aggressive, people will listen. You can break that bias. And if you can change one person, there is a ripple effect.”
That theme continued on March 3, during the first ever “Break the Bias Against Women Fair” in the Student Life Center. The event, sponsored by PTK and WILL as part of PTK’s year-long “Break the Bias” initiative, featured nearly a dozen information booths and interactive displays highlighting women’s issues across the country and across the globe.
Students representing a wide range of campus organizations prepared informational materials and handouts shining a light on human rights violations, gender violence, income disparity, campus safety, access to resources, health care, education and other social mores that continue to impact women in the 21st century.
The fair, spearheaded by PTK officer Mona Patel as part of her “Honors in Action” project at Brookdale, also featured refreshments, a mock photo booth, and a large table allowing visitors to design their own t-shirts in support of women’s rights.
The completed shirts were then hung across the room on a rope-line, which served as both an interactive artistic display and a symbol of Brookdale’s unity in the fight against injustice.
“The fair really does bring awareness to many types of biases and provides valuable information for both genders,” said biology major Grace Groh, one of dozens of Brookdale students and employees to visit the fair. “It’s a collaborative effort for a good cause.”
Click here to find out about upcoming campus events at Brookdale.
Check out more photos of the Muslim Women’s Voices program here.
More photos of the Break the Bias Against Women Fair are available here.