Monica Hatfield Price and Zamzam Abdi Jama were selected to emcee the 2016 International Women’s Day Festival, scheduled for 2 to 6 p.m. March 13 in the Baker University Center Ballroom.

Monica Hatfield Price and Zamzam Abdi Jama were selected to emcee the 2016 International Women’s Day Festival, scheduled for 2 to 6 p.m. March 13 in the Baker University Center Ballroom.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Women's Center

Ohio University senior Miguel Gomez shows off his winning design for this year’s International Women’s Day Festival poster.

Ohio University senior Miguel Gomez shows off his winning design for this year’s International Women’s Day Festival poster.

Photo courtesy of: Ohio University Women's Center

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Campus, community invited to OHIO’s March 13 International Women’s Day Festival

On March 8, communities throughout the world will observe International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women while also acknowledging the progress yet to be made. Ohio University will mark the occasion on Sunday, March 13, with an annual tradition of celebration, reflection, education and an opportunity to showcase the diverse talents of the OHIO and Athens communities. 

Ohio University’s Women’s Center will host its annual International Women’s Day Festival from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 13, in the Baker University Center Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public. 

In its eighth year, this year’s International Women’s Day Festival will feature many firsts, including two masters of ceremonies selected via an audition process, a special featured performance, and a portion of the event designated as explicitly child friendly.

“International Women’s Day is an annual event that really forces us to think about how far we’ve come and how far we have left to go,” explained M. Geneva Murray, who is participating in her first International Women’s Day Festival since becoming director of the Women’s Center this past October. “The International Women’s Day Festival is really about celebration, but it’s celebration with a purpose.”

Murray noted that while it’s encouraging to think about how far women have come in terms of gender equity, reflecting on how far we, as a society, need to go can be discouraging. For example, although women make up 51 percent of the population, they hold only 22 percent of national parliamentary seats worldwide. The United States, as of December, ranked 75th worldwide in women’s representation on a national level (behind Saudi Arabia). Currently, women working full time in the United States make, on average, 79 percent of their male counterparts. This inequity is exacerbated when looking not just at gender, but race and ethnicity as well. Hispanic and Latina women earn just 54 percent of white men’s earnings. 

“If we just think about how long it’s going to take us to get to where we need to be, it’s very sad,” she said, “so we want the International Women’s Day Festival to be a day where we can celebrate and re-energize ourselves, so that we can advocate for global gender equity and think about the different ways in which we can advocate. … I hope people leave this year’s festival feeling energized and invested in improving the lives of women and girls around the world.”

The highlight of OHIO’s International Women’s Day Festival is the various performances and presentations emphasizing the richness and diversity of both the campus and the local communities. 

According to Murray, the Women’s Center received an outpouring of interest from groups and individuals wanting to perform or present at the festival.

“This is the first year we’ve actually had to turn people away, which really breaks my heart because we want everyone to participate,” Murray said, adding that the festival’s planning committee tried to ensure a diversity of performances when making its final selection.

The festival will include about 30 performances and presentations, including singing, dancing, poetry, spoken word and two fashion shows. Among the acts that Murray said she was looking forward to are: 

  • Monica Hatfield Price will give a speech on women’s suffrage, which will engage the audience with call-backs
  • A performance by Title IX, OHIO’s student-led soprano/alto a cappella group
  • The screening of a trailer for “Giving Voice: The Japanese War Brides,” a documentary created by Don Moore, director of the electronic media program at Ohio University Southern; Brad Bear, a former special projects producer at the Southern Campus; and Miki Crawford, associate dean and professor of communications at the Southern Campus. The film explores the lives of Japanese women married to American GIs in the years following World War II and follows the book “Japanese War Brides in America: An Oral History,” which was co-authored by Crawford whose mother herself was a Japanese war bride. 
  • A fashion show featuring the music of Beyoncé and presented by student Cierra Boyd and her colleagues from The Scene Magazine, an OHIO-based fashion publication.
  • A performance from international graduate student Hashim Pashtun who will be singing a song about mothers.

“I’m really excited about so many of these performances because they provide a context for the reasons why we are hosting this event – to improve the lives of women,” Murray said. 

For the first time ever, the Women’s Center is also incorporating a featured performance into the festival. Grand Master Kazuko Chibana Volkmar and the Aharen Honryu Keisen Wa No Kai Okinawa Dance School from Columbus will perform at 3 p.m. 

“We want this to be a time in which we really honor the students and the community members who are participating and performing, but it’s also a great opportunity for us to showcase some of the rich cultural activities occurring in Ohio,” Murray said. 

Helping to ensure that the day’s festivities run smoothly, on time and engage the audience will be two masters of ceremonies who, for the first time, were selected following campus-wide auditions. They were chosen from a two-day audition process, which included an OHIO alumna who traveled from Cleveland. All who auditioned were asked to deliver a five-minute presentation about the importance of International Women’s Day. 

“It was a fierce competition,” Murray said. “And I would say it was probably the most amazing part of the Ohio University experience for me thus far because we had people coming in who were so passionate about this program and were so excited to have the opportunity to be a part of it. It sincerely meant something to them.”

The committee selected Monica Hatfield Price, an alumna of the Scripps College of Communication and a current doctoral candidate in the Patton College of Education, and Zamzam Abdi Jama, a graduate teaching associate and health communications doctoral student in the School of Communication Studies, to serve as this year’s masters of ceremonies. They will be joined by Sasha Francisca Estrella-Jones, an anthropology major in the Honors Tutorial College, who will emcee the festival’s fashion show.

In another effort to get the OHIO community engaged in this year’s International Women’s Day Festival, the Women’s Center held a campus-wide competition to design the festival’s poster. 

According to Murray, in the past the center held a poster competition but limited it to one graphic design class. This year, the festival’s planning committee decided to open the competition up to the entire campus. After reviewing about seven entries, the committee selected Miguel Gomez’s design for this year’s poster. Gomez is a senior majoring in astrophysics.

The final change to this year’s festival includes the establishment of explicitly child-friendly hours. In an effort to ensure that festival-goers have a family-friendly experience, the festival’s planning committee decided to ask performers and presenters if there was anything in their acts that would not be appropriate for children. Based on their feedback, the committee has determined that the festival activities occurring from 2 to 5 p.m. will be child-friendly. Acts that include anything that could be deemed not appropriate for children, such as those that feature adult language, have been reserved for 5 to 6 p.m. 

“I don’t want people to think they can’t attend from 5 to 6. We just want to make sure that there’s going to be a space where people wouldn’t have to second-guess whether or not to bring children,” Murray explained, adding that there are also some child-friendly acts mixed into the performances from 5 to 6 p.m. As in years past, the festival will also include a child play area. 

OHIO’s International Women’s Day Festival is sponsored by the Women’s Center, the Office of Global Affairs and International Studies, the Center for International Studies, the Multicultural Center and Programs, the International Student Union, and the Black Student Cultural Programming Board. It is organized by a planning committee that includes members of the local community and additional Ohio University partners.

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