Left to Right: Rachel (IRIS Staff), Anupama (India), Kimberly (IRIS Staff), Anna (Tanzania), Mariam (Egypt), Aleyna (Turkey), Aziza (Zanzibar), and Sandy (Aleyna’s Host Mom).

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900’s, when the world began to industrialize with a dramatic population growth and the change from past ideologies. The first National Women’s Day was recognized by the United States on February 28, 1909 until 1913.

In 1910, Clara Zetkin, the Leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, suggested an annual and global celebration of women. This resulted in International Women’s Day.

This year, IRIS co-hosted a celebratio of IWD at the First United Methodist Church on March 9th along with the Ames Public Library, Margaret Sloss Women’s Center, YWCA, and Friends of International Women. The day’s events included: hearing the inspiring story of Anicia Peters, a Iowa State University PhD student from Namibia; contributing to a time capsule that reflected on the status of women in 2014; a henna booth; a collage booth; and a women’s history trivia booth. Around 35 to 40 people attended the event to celebrate the day.

Anna and Anupama creating a collage about women’s roles and perspectives of women.

Anicia spoke about growing up as a woman of color in Namibia, and how she worked her way up through the very male-dominated field of computer sciences. During her speech, Anicia brought up breaking stereotypes in the STEM field and mentoring other women to break the mold. You can read more about Anicia here.

A question and answer period began which then gave everyone a chance to talk about the challenges and roles of women today. Everyone mingled over donated food from Panera and The Cafe, and got to know each other better.

Kimberly Hope, Operations Manager of IRIS, said, “I think the event was a great success. This was our first stab at trying to do something a bit more social, as opposed to listening only to a speaker and then that being it. We had some great, organic conversations. At the time capsule booth, we were able to discuss what we hope to see in women’s rights in the next five years, as well as take a look at our peer groups and how we treat women now. Over collages, people were talking about the pictures they were finding and why they were putting them on the collage.”

International Women’s Day is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

To learn more about the history of International Women’s Day, as well as women around the world who are doing inspiring work, check out their website. 

Rachel playing a Women’s History Trivia with a guest.

YES Student, Aleyna, who attended the event, said,”Attending the International Women’s Day celebration in Ames made me feel really happy because I got to hear from a successful woman who came to the U.S. with so many difficulties, and created a big change in her local community back in her country. I felt really lucky to be there not only to hear her success story, but also to share the amazing things I’ve experienced in the U.S. so far as an exchange student. Everyone was really interested in hearing from us, which made it more enjoyable. It was such an inspiring activity that gave me courage and confidence to realize the potential I have if I want to create a change in my local community, as well.The best part was listening to her because it is not something you get to hear everyday. My host mother and I were really inspired and felt like our minds opened.”

Do you want to participate in local activities like this one? Have you ever considered hosting an exchange student? IRIS creates fun and interacting events with the community throughout the year with our exchange students. We will be placing 30 students from over 20 different countries for the 2014-15 school year, and we need people like you to act as volunteer host families. The window to find host families is very short, so please visit https://iris-center.org/YES_Program.html or contact yessupport@iris-center.org for more information!

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