Students from all different races, backgrounds and ethnicities met on March 7 for a celebration tea honoring International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month.
Salt Lake Community College international students representing their home countries of Uganda, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Paraguay and the Democratic Republic of Congo all spoke about their struggles as women in their home countries, the journey they took to come study in the United States, and what International Women’s Day means to them.
From obtaining a visa and being away from family to overcoming language barriers and paying non-resident tuition without the chance to receive government financial aid, these SLCC students have persevered through all these challenges and continue to reach their goals.
“Every day I’m inspired by them,” says Laura Klingenstein, an advisor for International Student Affairs and a co-organizer of the event. “In addition to the challenges of obtaining a college degree, these students face many other obstacles.”
Klingstein and her colleague, Terra Gerritsen, were responsible for organizing the event. The diversity of the women who shared their stories in the Oak Room was fitting for International Women’s Day, which is recognized annually on March 8.
“International Women’s Day is a holiday that is celebrated all over the world,” Klingenstein says. “We wanted to include different perspectives from international voices from the SLCC community.”
Women’s History Month is hosted by the whole student affairs initiative at SLCC.
“It’s not a widely celebrated holiday in the United States, for some reason,” Gerritsen says. “But around the world, it is celebrated, so we wanted to do something for the international students to celebrate the holiday.”
Lillian Thando Naluyima from Uganda and Angele Mutima from Congo spoke of the contrast of the treatment of women in America compared to Africa. Many girls in Africa still don’t have the chance to go to school just because of their sex.
They both hope the future of Africa’s women will improve, and that one day, every girl will have the chance to receive an education, as well as be treated as equals to men.
With the ever-growing number of powerful women both in Africa and in other parts the world that are willing to reach out and help those less fortunate, they say the future looks bright.
Shahla Elnunu said she struggled moving to Utah from Saudi Arabia not knowing English and being completely alone and without support. The tales of her troubles didn’t seem to faze her positive attitude, however.
“I wanted to learn English and get the best education,” she says. “If I really want to do something, I will do it, no matter how or when or where.”
Elnunu has proudly overcome her challenges, despite doubts from people she knew back home, and is now attending her last semester at SLCC as a business student.
Before the students spoke, Kathryn Coquemont, assistant vice president for student development, praised Klingenstein and Gerritsen during her address.
“Today, we are uniting at Salt Lake Community College under the leadership of Laura and Terra, to be able to make women of the past proud, the women of the present inspired, and provide the women of the future with a vision.”
Attendees were treated to food and tea provided by International Student Affairs. Each of the round dining tables had picture cards with some of the strong women in the world.
After the students shared their inspirational stories, International Student Affairs arranged a question dice with questions concerning Women’s History Month.
A nationwide initiative for Women’s History Week originated in the early 1980s. In 1987, Congress designated the month of March as Women’s History Month.
For those who missed out on the tea celebration, SLCC will hold several events through March to celebrate Women’s History Month. Multiple free workshops will be held from March 26-28 at the Taylorsville campus, as well as the “Her Story is Power” gallery on display at the Taylorsville campus all month.