Student group hosts summit to raise awareness of women’s issues

Participants of the Female Contemporary Issues Summit gathered at University Center Friday to discuss various topics surrounding women's issues. (Kristin Fankhauser/DD)

The Female Contemporary Issues Summit, hosted by Woman as Hero, drew women of all ages through the doors of the A.E. England building Friday to learn and discuss the issues that their gender still faces today.

The event, which began at 8 a.m. in Civic Space Park,  included six discussion sessions on topics ranging from adolescent girls in poverty to modern-day feminism. Guests could choose from two different sessions at three times throughout the day.

While this was the fourth annual Woman as Hero summit, members still wished to bring more awareness to the Downtown campus.

The Downtown campus chapter of Woman as Hero was started last year, said Nesima Aberra, the group’s co-director.

“We wanted to be better organized and have more people aware of the summits and everything that we do,” she said.

The student-run club aims to educate in regards to women’s issues, as well as to inspire women and men to advocate locally and globally for struggling women everywhere.

Discussion topics at the summit covered a broad range. Some were related to the physical and mental health of women, including nutrition, psychosocial health and sexual health.

“When it comes to a woman’s health, making good sexual decisions is the most important thing she can do,” said Kelli Donley, a former Peace Corps volunteer who spoke at the event. “Whether we’re talking about young girls in Africa or women here in Phoenix, this issue is the cornerstone of women’s health and often overlooked. In American culture especially, we’re foolish to ignore it.”

Impoverished women and girls were the focus of another session. Damien Salamone, executive director at HEAL International, Heather Switzer, an assistant professor for the ASU School of Social Transformation, and Donley shared their experiences working across the globe in poor villages and their efforts to bring health and economic reform to people.

It’s believed that investing time and help into a woman or a girl can change an entire family, Switzer said. They can learn to be independent, seek higher education and be a wage earner. They can better themselves and give a brighter future to their children, all from the support of a few, she added.

“I like helping people; that’s what drew me here today,” social work junior Heather Quincy said. “I come from a broken background, and I think it’s important for women not to view themselves as victims, but to stand up and make a change for themselves.”

However, a change in women’s conditions won’t come easily and it won’t come without the help of society, said Siri Chand Khalsa, a doctor of nutrition and one of the event’s speakers, adding that men may not notice much about these issues, but by working with and educating them, some results may yet be produced.

“Men don’t really understand the issues facing women, but it’s a blind spot for many women as well,” Salamone said. “It’s important for everyone to be aware of them, reflect and advocate them, or else the status quo will never change and nothing will get accomplished.”

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This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 7, 2011

An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly the name of a doctor of nutrition, who was one of the event’s speakers. The name of the doctor is Siri Chand Khalsa, not Siri Chand Kalsa.