Women empowered at SMC

How much does gender impact your life? And how do we come together to bring true gender equality? These and other topics were discussed in the first three workshops presented at Santa Monica College in recognition of Women’s Empowerment Month. “Equality for women rolls into equality for everyone. It has an avalanche effect,” said Carlynne McDonnell, whose two previous workshops addressed cultivating leadership skills and honing one’s voice.

Students not only listened to McDonnell, but also discussed with her their thoughts and perceptions of leadership, communication, and themselves.

“This type of workshop is more interactive,” said Associated Students Commissioner Natalie Lei, “The communication between the presenter and participants is more dynamic”.

These workshops come from McDonnell’s non-profit organization, Change In Our Lifetime, Incorporated, which was founded in Jan 2013. Their goal is to educate women about the inequality that exists in today’s society, draw them together, and give them the skills to work toward bringing change.

“You need to know who you are every day, it’s like exercise. Every single day, work on your values, work on your integrity, work on how you feel about yourself,” said McDonnell.

McDonnell has been doing workshops on leadership and organizational strategy for many years before starting Change In Our Lifetime, Inc. Her politically active parents served as role models, and nurtured her passion for the rights of not just women, but all people. She is currently writing a book about the inequality of women in our society.

In addition to McDonnell's workshops, other events have been held on campus in honor of Women's Empowerment Month.

A workshop on Tuesday, March 13 was supposed to be given by Professor Melanie Klein, but a last minute change resulted in a very informative talk given by Maryam Zar.

Zar is a former correspondent for the Huffington Post in Iran, and founder of Womenfound, a non-profit organiztion started in 2010 designed to bring awareness to the struggles of women in underdeveloped parts of the world.

Feminism is about having equal rights and the freedom to chose your life’s direction without being subjected to discrimination because of what other people expect of you,” said Zar.

While in the United States gender equality issues might be focused on topics such as equal pay, in many other parts of the world gender equality means the right to a basic education, or the right not to be dragged into the cycle of young marriage and unwanted pregnancies.

Zar asked the mostly female audience, if they had ever felt as though their lives were subject to expectations placed on them by society because of their gender.

Nods and murmurs of "yes" filled the room and were then punctuated by a story from AS President Ty Moura who described being prevented from playing soccer with the boys as a kid in Brazil because she was a girl.

Attendee Kasin Hussain however had a differing opinion.

“No, I don’t feel like society or anybody around me puts expectations on myself.” said Hussain.

It is important to note that all of the events this month are not exclusively for women, and men have attended every workshop.

“Men are very important to equality,” said McDonnell. “They are our partners in our society.”

Events will be held throughout the month, presented by both the AS and the Feminist Club, including a closing workshop by McDonnell called "Creating A Gender Equal Life For Yourself" on March 20, at 11:15 a.m. in the Cayton Center and a visit on March 27 from Marianne Williamson, currently running for the United States House of Representatives.

“I’m very excited about the speech by Marianne Williamson,” said Lei. “She has been doing a lot of work for women empowerment long before she started running for Congress. You don’t always get a chance to have a candidate come over to the campus to give a speech. And it’s for free!”