BC Celebrates International Women’s Day with Empowering Event and Bystander Intervention Discussion

Photo by Giacomo Ferroni on Unsplash

International Women’s Day first started in the early 1900s when women all around the world were fighting for their rights. The first National Women’s Day was held on Feb. 28, 1909, in the U.S. The event was designed to honor the women that marched in New York City in 1908, vocalizing the need for better pay, shorter hours and, famously, voting rights. The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911 by Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, and other countries like Russia joined in the early 1900s. However, it was not until 1975 that the United Nations marked the first International Women’s Day. This occurred during the women’s liberation movement, when women fought for equal rights and opportunities. The date of March 8 is centered around the women’s movement during the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the Gregorian calendar. 

On March 8, Bellevue College’s Global Leaders and Pan-African Women in Society hosted an International Women’s Day Celebration, collaborating with the Filmmaking Club, International Student Association (ISA), Umoja Scholars Program and Congolese Students Success Association (CSSA). The popular event set an empowerment mood by playing upbeat music by female artists. The event started with a group of panelists composed of BC students and alumni, many of whom are international. They discussed overcoming challenges as international students, mental health and managing relationships. Some important ideas that were emphasized throughout all answers are self-love and listening to your needs. Especially in regards to relationships, self-love and self-confidence are key, because you should not be seeking someone else to complete you, but instead finding it within yourself.

The event concluded with a fashion show featuring traditional African and Indian outfits, a performance of the traditional mutuashi dance and a Kahoot! game to learn about the holiday. As said by Jemima Elongo, the coordinator of the event and President of Pan-African Women in Society, “the collaboration between different organizations resulted in a well-organized and diverse event that provided participants with valuable knowledge, insights and an enjoyable experience.”

*Trigger Warning: Sexual Harassment*

Importantly, the event also discussed bystander intervention. Nationwide, 81% of women report experiencing sexual harassment. In many ways, it is a normalized occurrence, with catcalling or being told that it is warranted because of how a woman carries herself, which is something that is just assumed about how the world works. Today, we are working on holding accountability and bringing harassment to light.

Bystanders are people present at an event. Bystander intervention is standing up for others, supporting people’s interests and helping others maintain respect. This is to help prevent or stop not only verbal or physical harassment but also situations where others are unable to defend themselves. Times to intervene include when someone is being intimidated, experiencing a hateful or hurtful attack, being coerced into decisions or having their boundaries violated.

There are five ways to intervene, varying by comfort level and situation, and can be remembered as the five D’s. Being direct is facing the problem head-on. If this would only elevate the problem, you can always document the situation by taking a video. You can also delegate to someone who you think could handle the situation better. Distraction is a creative method where you can get the person being harassed out of the situation by fibbing them out of the situation. Lastly, a delay is when you constantly check in after the person was harassed, asking if they are okay and if they would like any resources such as documentation or help filling out a report.