The 5C Experience: The Intercollegiate Feminist Center Women’s Health and Empowerment Symposium

In the wake of women’s marches around the world this past January in support of reproductive rights and income equality, among other issues, many are wondering how to keep the political momentum going. The Intercollegiate Feminist Center (IFC) is offering a two-day symposium to address a broad array of issues on women’s health and the ways in which individuals can affect public policy to enact progressive change. IFC’s two-day Women’s Health and Empowerment Symposium, February 24 and 25, will include panel discussions and presentations from researchers and community organizers as well as a workshop led by Marj Plumb, director of the Women’s Foundation of California’s Women’s Policy Institute. During a poster session, Scripps and other students from the Claremont Colleges will present their original research on women’s health issues conducted while on campus and during studies abroad.

One of the symposium’s organizers, IFC Coordinator Sue Castagnetto, emphasizes the importance of collaborations between academic researchers and community organizations, focusing on key issues of gender and health and the empowerment of women and girls to make change. Regarding the policy workshop, she says, “Especially now, many of us want to find ways to be involved in the political process.”

Symposium attendees will hear presentations on a range of topics, including reproductive justice, environmental justice and health, gender-based violence and sexual assault, the empowerment of girls and women, and how researchers and community organizations are working together to address social justice issues. Speakers who work both locally and globally will discuss how the organizations they work with approach these challenging issues. Alicia Bonaparte, associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College, will talk about her work with the Black Women Birthing Justice Project, while Scripps alumma Laiseng Saechao ’15, currently working with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, will speak about “Grounding Feminist Values in the Environmental Justice Movement.” Daniel Perlman of the University of California, Berkeley, will speak about the work of Centre for Girls Education to lower instances of early marriage for Muslim girls in Northern Nigeria, which ultimately improves their health outlook. Local community organizations will also participate, including California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Peace Over Violence, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, and Black Women for Wellness, among many others

“The participating scholars, researchers, and organizations focus especially on women from marginalized communities, centering the work of women of color,” says Castagnetto.

Keynote speaker Toni Bond Leonard, one of the twelve founding mothers of Reproductive Justice, will provide a framework in her talk, “Scholars and Activists Collaborating in a Time of Political Turmoil: Change at the Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Power.”

A highlight of the symposium will be Saturday’s half-day interactive workshop on policy-making tools, facilitated by Marj Plumb, director and lead creator of the Women’s Policy Institute, which teaches grassroots women leaders to effectively use policy tools to address the needs of women, girls, and families in California. Workshop participants will learn ways in which they can make their voices heard in the public policy process in California. They will also learn about what current WPI fellows’ policy projects. The workshop is open to people of all genders.

“It is a timely conference, looking at important issues that impact women,” says symposium co-organizer Deborah Mindry, visiting scholar at IFC this year and co-director of Education for the UC Global Health Institute’s Women’s Health and Empowerment Center of Expertise.

“In addition to giving people a concrete understanding of the issues, it will help us really think about the ways we can partner with community organizations and mobilize for change.”

The Women’s Health and Empowerment Symposium takes place February 24 and 25 in the Hampton Room of the Malott Commons at Scripps College. It is free and open to the public. For information on the schedule of events and speaker bios, visit IFC’s website.