An unfinished sentence on a small whiteboard caught students' eyes as they searched for tables at NYUAD's dining halls and curious passersby stopped as members of the University's Women's Leadership Network (WLN) waved pens and invited them to finish the sentence: "Feminism is important because..."
Inspired by the Oxford University Student Union's Women's Campaign, an online movement that collected photographs of people sharing the importance of feminism on a whiteboard, the "Feminism is important because..." project was brought to NYUAD by sophomore and WLN member Caroline Gobena who wanted to involve the NYUAD community in the campaign to promote women's empowerment.
"The event is important to me because it shows the many different ways in which people are impacted by feminism and brings forth the fact that the struggle for women's rights is a global issue," said Gobena.
The project was an immense success. After documenting numerous responses in the dining halls, WLN members branched out to visit student spaces and University offices. They even received several responses via email from NYUAD students studying abroad. In all, more than 80 members of the NYUAD community took a moment to stop, think, and write down why feminism is important to them.
"I think it is extremely important to explore the diversity of reasons that the students and staff at our university value and cherish feminism — whether it be policies, literature, film, etc. — all around the world. Feminism is a largely misunderstood concept and I think this project has a lot of importance in defining feminism for each individual as well as a university as a whole,” said NYUAD junior Nicole Lopez Del Carril, another member of the WLN who collaborated with Olivia Bergen, NYUAD sophomore and president of the student group, to run the project.
As the photos reveal, feminism carries a unique meaning for each participant. "I was really surprised by the variety," said Bergen. "People's reactions to the prompt ranged from serious to fun, frustrated to optimistic, but each illuminated the individual in the photograph."
Bergen hopes that the project has kindled more interest in women's issues and the works of the Women's Leadership Network. She looks forward to initiating more projects to enhance the lives of women worldwide. "My vision is to increase focus at NYUAD and in the UAE on women's equality, empowerment, and leadership," she said.
Visit nyuadwomen.tumblr.com to see the NYUAD community's responses to the project prompt.