Amnesty International Hosts Women’s Rights Discussion

Isabella Balian, Staff Writer

As a part of Immigration Week, Villanova’s Chapter of Amnesty International + No Lost Generation hosted a “Women’s Rights Discussion” surrounding women’s rights on Villanova’s campus and within the national and international scope. Amnesty International is a worldwide organization that monitors human rights and campaigns to end abuses of human rights in more than 150 countries. Specifically, Villanova’s chapter focuses on the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and aims to raise awareness and educate the Villanova community. 

Members of the executive board hosted a group discussion this week explicitly focusing on the protests and human rights abuses happening in Iran and the debate regarding women’s abortion rights in America. The leaders began the event by setting guidelines for the event, describing it as a “safe space for everyone,” and encouraging students to keep an open mind towards other students’ perspectives while being respectful of their own words. The executive board is committed to assuring that Amnesty International + No Lost Generation will not tolerate hate and guided this discussion as needed. 

“Students will have the ability to freely navigate conversations that involve such difficult realities,” co-President Elizabeth Isaula-Mejia said. “With discussions on women’s rights, climate change, immigration laws, refugees and asylum seekers, people can gain a space where they can fully express themselves while also receiving education and hopefully spreading awareness.”

The student leaders of Amnesty International began the discussion by giving a brief overview of the crisis in Iran, where Mahsa Amini was killed after the morality police detained her without giving an explanation. After giving an overview of the events in Iran, the student leaders posed open-ended questions to start the discussion, asking “How did the violence perpetrated specifically against women make you feel?” and “How can we make sure our efforts to help cause more good than harm?” Students responded empathetically and expressed how scary the events in Iran were and how unfair it is that women trying to voice their opinions are  met with violence and death. Students discussed the importance of spreading awareness through social media and reposting things online, emphasizing that at this point ignorance of what’s happening is a choice. 

Student leaders believed that it was important to touch on the international events of Iran and educate Villanova students on what is happening to women abroad. 

“Although Villanova students may not be directly impacted by international events, these can spark a discussion about human rights issues that exist around the world and in our country as well,” co-President Lillie Presti said. “This contributes to a greater message of maintaining peace in our world and working for more just societies and equitable rights for all.”

Student leaders then led the discussion to change gears toward discussing the overturn of Roe V. Wade and how this affects Villanova students and American citizens overall. They posed questions such as, “What do you think this decision means for the future of our women?” and “How does this decision affect your daily life?” Students passionately responded, saying that this overturn will make it a lot harder for women to access reproductive health resources and that women of lower socioeconomic status are especially affected. Additionally, students expressed concerns that abortion rights being taken away is a step back for America and that now people will have to work twice as hard to ensure equality for women. 

Student attendees then shifted the conversation to their concerns about women’s safety at Villanova, believing that there are not enough resources for women, women of color and first-generation college students. Students began to express concerns about the lack of education on women’s equality at Villanova. Students described their experiences within Ethics classes at Villanova, stating that they rarely brush on abortion or Catholic ethics, believing that Villanova can still relay its Catholic message while also supporting the safety and well-being of students. Students posed an idea that Villanova ethics, theology and philosophy classes need to be revisited, introducing more relevant topics such as racism, food security or women’s rights. Additionally, lots of female students expressed fear for their safety within college culture, fearing being sexually harassed or assaulted on and off campus. 

Students participated in an efficient and meaningful discussion of evaluating women’s safety and rights within America, and on Villanova’s campus. 

“We still have a long way to go before Villanova becomes a truly inclusive environment,” treasurer Bonnie Pulla said. “While diversity can be seen in the populations of incoming students in recent years, inclusivity is a separate factor that Villanova still needs to work on. Discussions like this one bring us one step closer to inclusivity by ensuring that the experiences of students of color and immigrants on this campus are heard by white and privileged students.”

Overall, the event served as a great opportunity for students to express their opinions, share their experiences and learn more about women’s rights and safety in America and internationally. 

“We were very excited with the turnout of the event,” secretary Trinity Rogers said. “A diverse group of attendees in terms of race and gender as well which is always great to have at these types of discussions. It was refreshing to have different points of view in such a candid conversation.”