As a member of Fordham’s Institute for Women and Girls, I had the privilege of contributing to our annual conference this spring as part of the planning committee. The Fordham Institute was established over 20 years ago to educate and advocate for women, bringing together faculty, students, and members of the local, national, and international community who are passionate about women’s rights.
This year’s event focused on advocating for women’s rights through the powerful combination of technology and art.
Focusing on Positive Solutions
The conference began by acknowledging the current state of women’s rights. While we have made significant progress, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. Violence against women continues to be a pressing issue, and Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable. Reproductive freedom is under threat in many areas, and migrant women face numerous challenges, including high maternal mortality rates. Additionally, the freedom and pursuit of education for women have been hindered in recent years.
There are many problems that need to be tackled, but it is equally important to focus on the positive steps being taken to address these issues. Our aim for the conference was to explore how technology and art can be utilized to empower women and counter the threats they face. And to shift attention to the positive initiatives and strategies that are being employed to promote women’s rights worldwide.
Dr. Elaine Congress, MSSW, MA, DSW, LCSW, Fordham Associate Dean and Professor
Beth Dieghen, NGO CSW leader
Mandy Ansari, Chair -Iranian Diaspora Collective
Sandy Turner, MSW, LCSW, PhD, Fordham Associate Professor
Dr. Gabrielle Casper International Health Awareness Network (IHAN) Chair and her medical students
Chelsea Bonosky, Fordham MSW UN student
Alvin Ailey Dance; Repertory Film
Keynote: Mandy Ansari, co-founder of the Iranian Diaspora Collective
Mandy Ansari, co-founder of the Iranian Diaspora Collective, immediately captured our attention as the keynote speaker, leaving everyone truly inspired and excited for the rest of the conference.
Mandy shared her personal story as an Iranian immigrant and emphasized the importance of technology and social media in empowering women during the ongoing revolution in Iran. Mandy shed light on the oppressive conditions faced by women in Iran, highlighting the stark contrast between pre-revolutionary Iran and the current situation. She discussed the restrictive laws and practices imposed on women, such as the mandatory hijab, limitations on freedom of expression, and restrictions on daily activities.
She delved into the role of technology in advocating for women’s rights, particularly in oppressive societies. She emphasized the power of social media platforms in amplifying voices, raising awareness, and connecting individuals globally. Through platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, women could share their stories, document their experiences, and mobilize support for their cause. Mandy emphasized the need to leverage technology to empower women and fight for their rights.
In addition to technology, Mandy highlighted the transformative power of art in advocating for women’s rights. Numerous artists are creatively reimagining established symbols of protest and freedom as a means to showcase their solidarity.
It is essential to recognize that the struggles faced by marginalized groups are not just statistics or isolated incidents. These are real people with hopes and dreams, fighting for their rights. For instance, at the time of the conference, the ongoing protests in Iran had seen 175 days of sustained activism, involving 161 cities leading to the detention of 19,000 protesters and death of over 500 people.
To achieve success in any endeavor, allyship plays a crucial role. Without the support of allies, it is easy to become trapped in an echo chamber, limiting progress. The power of unity and collaboration was exemplified in various ways, such as the global efforts to stop executions in Iran and the use of social media as a platform for education and awareness.
Become an activist
There is a strong desire to create an impact and bring about positive change but it’s easy to feel unsure about where to start or how to contribute effectively. Here are a few suggestions Mandy made to get involved:
- Educate Yourself: Visit media.iranianDiasporaCollective.com for daily updates on the situation in Iran. This resource provides a comprehensive guide on how to discuss and raise awareness about the issues.
- Don’t Fear Mistakes: Don’t be afraid to speak out, even if you don’t have all the facts. Engage in discussions and ask questions to learn and grow.
- Support Each Other: Lean on one another’s strengths and expertise. By working together and embracing our diverse skill sets, we become stronger as a collective.
- Amplify Voices: Use your platform, whether it’s in lectures, conversations with friends, or social media, to raise awareness about the suppression faced by marginalized communities. Share stories, educate others, and encourage dialogue.
Listen to Mandy and our other speakers:
For more about Fordham’s Institute for Women and Girls please visit our website. If you are interested in learning more or attending our meetings please get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or reach out to Elaine Congress at email@example.com.
Kristen Treglia is a Senior Instructional Technologist in the Office of Information Technology and proud advocate of women’s rights.