As part of Women’s Heritage Month at Westminster College, panelists came together in the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business Auditorium on March 21 to discuss their work toward women’s liberation and to provide advice for how students can become activists.
The Diversity and Inclusion Center organized the panel, which was called “Women Organizers: Activism, Politics, and Leadership in the Beehive State.” It was comprised of community members involved in activism, politics and movements locally and around the state.
“I’m hoping people have an opportunity to reflect on their own experiences to build coalitions with other people,” said Daniel Cairo, the director of the Diversity and Inclusion Center. “When we are thinking about building a better world that is equitable, that is just and really values the worth of all our community members, that means we have to do our own reflective work — but we also have to build collations with people who don’t look like us.”
Stephany Murgia, the outreach and access coordinator at the Rape Recovery Center, moderated the conversation between Madelena McNeil, Natalie Pinkey, Lex Scott, Jennifer Ha, Shilpi Blanchat, Margarita Satini and Dr. Shamby Polychronis.
Though the panelists are all aiming for common goals, they ranged in their areas of focus. Polychronis, an assistant professor in Westminster’s School of Education, said she works toward equality in education, while Satini, who chairs the Utah Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Coalition, focuses on increasing representation of women of color in leadership positions.
Panelists also spoke about the necessity for their movements to prioritize and include women of color.
“The black lives movement has been led by women from the beginning, and you know I try to make our group as intersectional as I can, and I try to raise and push black women’s voices really high,” said Scott, the founder for the civil rights organization United Front Party. “My work is mostly against police brutality, so it doesn’t focus simply on women. But I try to empower women of color.”
McNeil, an activist and organizer, added that she also aims to engage younger women.
“My biggest area of focus is empowering women who are younger than me,” she said. “So I am 25, but I work a lot with teenagers, high school students and college students to help pass on the things I’ve learned and provide the space for them to do what everyone is capable of doing.”
The panelists also gave advice to those seeking involvement with activism for the first time, emphasizing the importance of self-care and awareness about the issues.
“Read and learn what you are talking about before you get involved,” McNeil advised.
More information about Women’s Heritage Month can be found here.