The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Annual storytelling event empowers International Women’s Day 


The seventh annual “12 Women Who Changed the World: Untold Stories” brought together 12 featured speakers from the University and the community on March 5 to share the unfolded stories of female pioneers. Speakers were allotted five minutes to bring to light the stories of female role models who have made significant impacts worldwide. 

The event was jointly hosted by the Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program and the Humanities Research Institute. It encouraged storytellers to adopt global perspectives and share personal insights on these women.

“The world that is transformed by women’s work, ambition and accomplishment,” said Antoinette Burton, director of the Humanities Research Institute and opening host of the event.

According to Collen Murphy, director of the Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program and one of the speakers this year, the lecture aimed to unite speakers with diverse community connections.

Emma Darbro, junior in LAS, focused on the referendum on access to FDA-approved medical abortion pills. As the only undergraduate speaker, Darbo represented the student body.

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“It is definitely an honor,” Darbro said. She was the third student speaker in the event’s history.

Darbro worked as the co-president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, a registered student organization currently dedicated to creating on-campus access to abortion pills through this year’s student referendum.

She mentioned Francine Coeytaux, Elisa Wells and Amy Merrill, founders of Plan C — a public health campaign transforming abortion access by providing self-managed pills through the mail.

“I’m trying to replicate their work on this campus,” Darbro said. “They deserve the honor of starting this significant information spread that reached so many people.”

According to Darbro, the official referendum results are expected to be released in late March.

Speaker Breanna Robinson-Shamaila, senior associate director of Athletics, Sport Administration, Inclusion and Student-Athlete Development, shared the life path of her great-grandmother, Harriet Banks, as a “hope dealer,” making an impact through her family’s legacy and values of accountability.

“She did not have to attend higher education, travel the world or be famous to change the world,” Shamaila said. “Granny, I stand on your shoulders. Thank you for lifting me up and providing me with a framework and strength to also be a fear fighter and change agent.”

Speakers from different countries also brought the untold stories of female role models to global scope, highlighting their contributions in various domains.

According to Murphy, the event’s goal is to inspire people to recognize one can make a difference in various ways, from interpersonal changes within the community to fundamental contributions to shaping a new world.

Minori Ota, a visitor from Japan and one of the audience members, said the lecture was innovative and inspiring for her. She said celebrating International Women’s Day is not common in Japan, so it was inspiring for her to learn these untold stories and meet new people.

“Talking about sexuality and health care like Plan C is kind of taboo in Japan,” Ota said. “So, I feel like it’s really cool, and I appreciate that I can share my opinion in public.”

International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on March 8, emerged from the women’s rights movement and continues focusing on gender equity topics like reproductive justice and gender discrimination.

Marking a call for gender parity, March is also recognized as a significant celebration of women’s history. The University will feature various events to raise awareness of gender parity and recognize the past. More events during Women’s History Month can be found on the events calendar.


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