The scenic 215-acre campus of Western New England University, in suburban Springfield, Mass., played host to ICAP’s “The Century of Women” exhibit April 15–27. The exhibition spotlights women who have taken a leading role in the quest for global security and equal rights, based on the awareness that the continuing empowerment of women throughout the world is key to solving the world’s most pressing issues.
In conjunction with the exhibit, WNE sponsored a panel discussion on human rights and individual responsibility. The exhibit, which coincided with the university’s open house, an annual event for prospective students and their families, saw nearly 150 students, faculty, community leaders, citizens and guests participating in various ways. A local TV news program also covered the event.
Serendipitously, on April 18, just 20 minutes away, Shirin Ebadi, one of the women highlighted in the “Century of Women” exhibit, was receiving an honorary doctorate at Westfield State University. Having attended the exhibit grand opening in 2011, Ms. Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (in 2003), was delighted to hear that it was on display locally.
The panel discussion, which was held on April 19, posed the vital question: “What was your turning point that led you to your current work (in the field of human rights), and what is your vision for the future?” Panel members and speakers included Paula Meara, Springfield’s first woman chief of police; Dr. Carrie Baker, assistant professor at Smith College, who won the Jane Velez-Mitchell Journalism Award for a Ms. Magazine article on sex trafficking; Shonda Pettiford, president of the Board of Directors for the Woman’s Fund of Western Massachusetts; and Sonia Gloss, a young American woman fluent in Swahili, who has been working in East Africa since 2007 as manager of a project to bring solar power to rural Kenya. Ms. Gloss also works to resettle unaccompanied refugee youth and victims of human trafficking.
Among the many enthusiastic comments from participants were these:
Patricia Jenks, curator of the WNE Art Gallery, said: “This exhibit is truly inspirational and I have never experienced so much excitement and interest in a showing at the Gallery! . . . Everything has evolved in such a fortunate direction, and it has been a joy working with ICAP.”
Fran Aguda, Board President of the Western Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, said: “I am so impressed with what ICAP and WNE have put together. This entire event—the exhibit and panel discussion—was inspirational. I feel so honored to have been a part of it.”
Dr. Sharon Williams, a professor at WNE instrumental in creating the event, said: “All of my students attended, and I’m getting a lot of very positive feedback from them. This has been an amazing event for everyone.”
It is ICAP’s profound hope that “The Century of Women” exhibit will inspire everyone who views it to join the remarkable women who are highlighted in establishing a world in which every human being can express his or her full potential, a world where peace becomes a reality.
Article contributed by Claire Wroblewski