International Women’s Day should be call to action

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

In America, National Women’s Day was held for the first time on Feb. 28, 1909. In 1911, International Women’s Day was noted for the first time in nations such as Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The year 1975 was International Women’s year, and on March 8 of that year, the United Nations began observing International Women’s Day.

Through the years, this date has been marked and noted by rallies and protests of working conditions, voting right changes, education demands and safe living needs. This year, International Women’s Day seemed mainly noted by social media posts tagging family members and significant others.  

This past Thursday, to mark International Women’s Day, there were strikes and demonstrations in Manila, Seoul and New Delhi that gained some notice.

However, news of protests being silenced and removed from media gained much more attention in China, Russia and Pakistan where the acts of the day focused on violence against women and pay discrepancies.

And even more than the stories of protests being silenced, there were stories such as a tweet shared from the University of Oxford, where four men are watching one woman scrub the words “Happy International Women’s Day” off stairsteps.

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While this media circulated worldwide, another event happened right here on campus. Last Friday, the Women Changing the Face of Agriculture Conference was hosted here at the University.

The conference is for female students in high school and college interested in future agriculture-based carers. The conference is held by Illinois Agri-Women and brings over 200 presenters to discuss all aspects of any agriculture career.

Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of ACES, gave the opening remarks to a room filled with young women Friday morning. She said in her address, “What we ask you to do today is to imagine the possibilities of you starting your career on this campus as a student in the college of ACES, because we believe that every one of you can make a difference in this world.”

Dean Kidwell went on to explain how she did not always believe this message when she started school. She spoke of how she was the first female professor in her department at Washington State to be promoted to her level. She went on to explain how she is the first female dean at our University College of ACES.

Kidwell continued to give the students in the room three pieces of advice. First, to be curious. Second, to be brave. And third, to be kind.

These are lessons that should always be shared and understood, and yet they are not.

Over the course of the day, the attendees heard from many more speakers, participated in a career fair and went through breakout sessions of their choosing. The pictures posted online show the vibrancy of the day. The stories shared across social media platforms reinforce how much growth came out of a project like this.

The reality is that women all over the world still need to stand up and fight for what should be granted to them without question. It is important to take the time to commend the female leaders and friends in our lives. It is most important to take tangible steps, seen in the success of the Women’s Changing the Face of Agriculture Conference, to shape a future where the lessons learned become part of everyday mentalities.