Celebrating Women at UBC: Afuwa

Photo credit: Georgia Straight

Photo credit: Georgia Straight

Afuwa and Art

Afuwa is an artist from Guyana and a visiting fellow at UBC’s Liu Institute for Global Issues. Afuwa’s artwork has been on display at the Liu Institute and is based on her family photos and the idea of the immigrant body. With many relatives across the globe, she wanted to depict the challenges of living a nomadic life. Family, friends, and human connections are very important to Afuwa, and part of where she finds inspiration. She says that as a person of colour it is particularly important to have people who know you and understand you because you don’t have to explain yourself to them – you are precious to them. The real 24-carat gold that Afuwa used to create these art pieces represents this idea of preciousness and how, when you leave a play, it’s difficult to decide what to take with you. It also alludes to the reality that, while Canada freely exploits Guyana for its gold, it is a lot more reluctant to take in its people. “To me, my family is gold,” she says, “so they can come in.”

Afuwa is very passionate about art and thinks it should be everywhere for people to enjoy. Upon coming to North America, she was disappointed to see that art is elitist. In Guyana and Jamaica, where she lived and worked for some time, the people have a different response to art which she both admires and misses. “The appreciation of the black body is a symbol of anti-colonial independence,” says Afuwa.

Afuwa and International Women’s Day

As a feminist, Afuwa thinks that UBC and other universities should make more of an effort to follow through with their commitments to keeping people safe on campus. Shocked by the series of reported sexual assaults across campus, she thinks that UBC should do more than just remind people to remain safe at night; she thinks as an educational institution there should be more efforts to change the way some young men behave as opposed to victimising young women.

Afuwa is very inspired by humans in general, but this International Women’s Day she is celebrating her mother, grandmother, aunties and many other women that have touched her life. She grew up with strong women and a strong father who could put up with them. She thinks it’s a gift to have a sense of mutual understanding with another person and know them as a place of safety and communion.

Afuwa and Feminism

Afuwa is very interested in the idea of intersectionality and the growing dialogues around it. She thinks it’s fantastic that we are actually at a point where there’s an understanding that the rights of women are conjoined with immigration rights, indigenous solidarity, and class and race struggles. She also appreciates that there are people who are questioning historic white supremacy in Western feminism and that more and more people are becoming educated about these issues to a point where productive conversations can be held regularly.

In Afuwa’s perfect world there would be less capitalism, more beauty, more meaningful solidarity, and art everywhere. Afuwa says that, as women, we must be aware of the messages we take in. Women are the most advertised to group of people and often the ads are not in women’s best interest. Afuwa stresses that women are socialised to be receptive to advertising and we should try our best to be independent thinkers.

Celebrating Women at UBC: Anna White

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Anna and Interests

Anna White is a Student Leadership Coordinator with Access and Diversity at UBC. She is very passionate about developing programs that create space for personal growth and sharing tools for creating social change. One way she does this is as the Camp Director of “CampOUT!” – a summer camp for queer, trans, and allied youth across British Columbia. In the future, she hopes to see the people around her use their imaginations to create and embody new ways of learning and organizing that challenge the social norms of heteronormativity, racism, sexism and ableism.

Anna loves to spend her spare time gardening, ocean swimming, hiking with her dogs, cooking, connecting with family and friends, meditating and reading nerdy Sci-fi and fantasy young adult fiction. “I like science fiction because it’s a path to imagining new worlds or new ways of relating across difference,” she says.

Anna and International Women’s Day

This year on International Women’s Day, Anna is celebrating the women in the Equity Ambassador team who are facilitating change by sharing stories around the campus; she thinks it is cool and really exciting that they have developed this project. Anna is an advocate for social justice. Her passion for creating social change was inspired by her childhood babysitters, who were politically-involved eco-feminist-activists. She is also inspired by her grandmother who committed to learning new things even as she reached her 90s.

Anna and Women’s Issues

One of the issues Anna is passionate about is increasing opportunities for self-identified women as well as trans-identified and gender fluid folks. Anna strives to use her cisgender privilege to act in allyship with trans folks to raise awareness about gender diversity and to invite the people around her to become more accepting and inclusive of all women. She actively addresses this issue by creating opportunities to educate herself, program participants, friends, and family. Through the use of her language and actions she encourages folks to understand their own privilege and assumptions about gender identities.

She says female empowerment means getting up every day, giving thanks to the women that have, and continue to, tend the land that she is a visitor on, recognizing her privilege, challenging her assumptions, striving toward allyship, and using her privilege to create positive social change, one relationship at a time.

Celebrating Women at UBC: Marlene King

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Marlene and Interests

Marlene King is an International Student Recruiter/Advisor in the International Student Initiative and is responsible for awards for international undergraduate students at UBC. She is passionate about providing educational opportunities for talented students from around the world who do not otherwise have access to post-secondary education. “UBC has the largest scholarship program in Canada. Approximately $8 million Canadian is provided annually to awards, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid for international undergraduate students,” she says.

Marlene loves her job because she enjoys seeing students succeed and she knows that all staff members genuinely care about the well-being of students. Coming from South Africa where many students do not have the means to complete their education, Marlene is dedicated to providing financial help to students from similar backgrounds.

Marlene and Background

Marlene has never lived in South Africa post-Apartheid and is interested to see how things have changed every time she visits home. While growing up, Chinese South Africans were a minority and the strict Apartheid rules did not affect her as much as the black population. They shared many privileges with white people but they still faced racism – they were not allowed to attend the local white public school and went to Catholic school instead.

Marlene and International Women’s Day

As a Catholic, Marlene is very inspired by the life and work of Mother Theresa and how she so humbly and selflessly devoted her life to the underprivileged in India. She also admires Malala Yousafzai, a 16 year old Pakistani education activist as well as other women and girls who are unafraid to speak out against injustices. Marlene believes education is a right and is passionate about developing educational opportunities in countries where they don’t exist.

Marlene believes that women in politics are great role models, for example, Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. She would like to see more women in politics in Canada. She would also like to see an eradication of female genital mutilation based and arranged marriages, two examples where women do not have rights over their own bodies.

Celebrating Women at UBC: Dr. Karen Bakker

Photo credit: BoPoMo photos

Photo credit: BoPoMo photos

Dr Bakker and Interests

Dr. Karen Bakker is a UBC professor in the Geography department, a Canada Research Chair, and the Director of the Program on Water Governance. Her main areas of interest include water security, environmental management, and politics. In her free time, Dr. Bakker enjoys cycling, gardening, hiking with her husband, and playing with her two lovely daughters. She also blogs about food politics and parenting at FrenchKidsEatEverything.com.

Dr Bakker and Passions

She is passionate about the environment, education and her family. Dr. Bakker is celebrating her two daughters as well as women around the world on this International Women’s Day. She is inspired by many women – too many to name, in fact – especially those who were or are educators, academics, campaigners, outstanding scholars, visionaries, and spokespeople for gender equality. Mary Wollstonecraft, Dorothy Hodgkin, Millicent Fawcett, Simone de Beauvoir, Germaine Greer, Wangari Maathai are among the many women who inspire Dr. Bakker.

Dr Bakker and Women’s Issues

Dr. Bakker believes that gender equality in access to education is without a doubt one of the most important issues of our time. She also believes that the Suffragettes who won the right for women to vote are a great example of the many outstanding women around the world who have made significant progress. Her idea of female empowerment is freedom for women to reach their full potential which, she believes, will benefit both women and men.

Dr. Bakker loves initiating change and enjoyed her time on UBC’s Status of Women Committee, which successfully campaigned for UBC to fulfil its legal obligations with respect to gender equity in faculty salaries. She would like to see more women in senior professorial and administrative positions at UBC which does not compare well to its peers in this regard. Internationally, she would like to see more women, from a greater diversity of backgrounds, playing a role in global environmental policy dialogues and debates. “Too often, their voices are unheard or obscured”, she says.

Celebrating Women at UBC: Dr. Naoko Ellis

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Dr. Ellis and Interests

Dr. Naoko Ellis is an associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science at UBC. She is very passionate about sustainability which she embodies in her daily life by composting at home, cycling to work every day, and encouraging others to do the same. She runs a Sustainability Leadership course where she encourages people to get to know themselves and how they can best contribute to society. She hopes that in the future people will have a more holistic view of the world, examining our interdependences and becoming global citizens.

In her spare time, Dr. Ellis enjoys rock climbing, cycling, catching up with her children, travelling, photography, meeting new people, and attending Petcha Kucha events around Vancouver. She loves attending local events because she is a strong believer in building community.

Dr. Ellis enjoys her job at UBC because she loves engaging with young minds and challenging young people. “It gives me hope for the future,” she says. She also loves that she is able to travel and meet lots of great people. She enjoys engaging in deep conversations with people and feeling the awe of nature as she travels.

Dr. Ellis and International Women’s Day

This year on International Women’s Day, Dr. Ellis is celebrating her mother, who lives in Japan. She admires her ambition and the fact that she strived for a career at a time when many women did not. She was inspired by science and driven by her passion to study and teach. Dr. Ellis believes that good parents and role models are key to the success of girls. Having raised three UBC students herself, Dr. Ellis, says that many parents unconsciously guide their children in ways that might not give them equal opportunities.

Dr. Ellis experiences a positive environment at work for which she is fortunate; many other women have faced hardships in this field. One of the biggest challenges she finds, is balancing work and personal life.

Celebrating Women at UBC: Rojin Kaviani

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Rojin and Interests

Rojin Kaviani is a fourth year General Science student at UBC. She also works as a JumpStart Student Coordinator and a Wellness Peer. Rojin is really passionate about learning from every experience and being challenged. She finds it so important to continuously question and challenge yourself and others: to learn, unlearn, and relearn. She really enjoys positions and careers that get you thinking on the spot and looking at problems with a new perspective.

Rojin and International Women’s Day

Rojin is inspired by her mother because she was able to balance being a full-time single mother while following her career dreams. She paved her own path and opened her own practice as a professional. Many people and many obstacles stood in her way but she powered through. “Her determination gives me strength,” says Rojin.

Rojin and Passions

Rojin is really passionate about access to education and basic rights for women. Her heritage traces to Iran, where women aren’t respected or considered, by law, to be equal to men; their opportunities are restricted and limited by the government. This realization prompted Rojin to start learning and becoming passionate about gender equality.

Celebrating Women at UBC: Amarachi Chukwu

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Photo credit: Cicely Blain

Amarachi and Involvement

Amarachi Chukwu is a third year Arts student majoring in Psychology with a minor in Law and Society. She also loves Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice. At UBC, she is the President of the Caribbean African Association and the the Co-captain of Nu Era Dance Crew. In her spare time, Amarachi enjoys having great conversations with people, dancing, watching a lot of television shows, singing, DIY projects, eating, and spending time with close friends.

Amarachi and Passions

Amarachi is passionate about music, dance, fashion, and other art forms that allow for expression of self and beliefs. She’s passionate about her faith as a Christian as well as social justice, equality, and learning. As a feminist, Amarachi is also passionate about the narrow definitions of beauty and the homogenous construction of femininity. She believes that both ideas exclude so many women, especially women of colour. These socially constructed ideas of what it is to be ‘women’ belittle those who do not adhere to them and fail to celebrate the diversity in expressions of gender or beauty.

Amarachi and International Women’s Day

This year on International Women’s Day, Amarachi is celebrating her mother, her sister, and her girl-friends. “I am lucky to have so many strong, intelligent and beautiful women in my life who continuously help me grow,” she says. For her, female empowerment means having the agency and ability to define for ourselves and what it means to be women and not having our identities essentialised to a single narrative like ‘emotional’ or ‘nurturing’. Female empowerment means having our identities no longer co-constructed or dependent upon male identity as a polar opposite: gentle to his aggressive, frail to his strength, emotional to his rational.

International Women’s Day at UBC!

Post by Elaine Lin

This year on March 8 in Irving K. Barber, the UBC Equity Ambassadors put together another International Women’s (IWD) Day event once again to raise awareness of this important day and to celebrate women. We focused our event this year on positive body image to celebrate real and natural beauties, regardless of shape, size, gender, ethnicity, race, sexuality, age, class, ability, economic background, or religious belief. We have seen, time and time again, mainstream media featuring bodies, particularly women’s bodies, that have been severely Photoshopped and embellished upon.

We have seen the ways in which bodies, especially women’s bodies, have been sexually objectified in mainstream media. We hoped that by organizing this IWD event, we can encourage people to love themselves and their bodies and to deconstruct the media’s image of women as sexual objects. We also hoped to empower women and people in general, so that they can be confident of who they are instead of judging themselves according to societal expectations.

Our event booth featured:

  • A fun IWD-themed photo booth for taking cool and memorable photos
  • Inspirational take-away bookmarks with quotes
  • Real-life stories of women
  • A recycle box to throw away insecurities and things people dislike about their bodies or themselves in general
  • Free treats

The takeaway bookmarks with body positive quotes were empowering and meaningful. The display board with colourful photos depicting diverse forms of women raised awareness and started conversations. Further, the photobooth questions and quotes got people thinking and engaged with the event theme. Having our friends who were willing to write their own personal stories and posting their photos was inspiring for people to see. It made the whole idea of feminism and gender equality seem more relatable. Lastly, we raised awareness amongst males as well.

One of the popular bookmark quotes featured:

“Call me smart; call me sassy; call me bold; call me strong. Don’t call me hot; don’t call me sexy; don’tcall me baby. Call me by what I am, don’t call me by the narrow expectations that society has placed upon me.” – Selena Zhong

We hope that another IWD event will be hosted by Equity Ambassadors and other organizations and clubs on campus in the years to come.

For photos and more info of the IWD event, check out our Facebook event page. Be sure to “like” our  International Women’s Day @ UBC Facebook page to stay up to date about IWD- and feminism-related info.

Get involved on International Women’s Day

This Friday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements, as well as highlight the needs and concerns of women at national, regional and global agendas. This year the Equity Ambassadors are celebrating women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, sexualities, ages, classes, abilities and religious beliefs with a fun photo booth event.

They’re our bodies – why are we taught to critisize them?
Friday March 8, 10am-3pm
Irving K. Barber Learning (2nd floor)

Can’t make it on the day? Why not show your support for the principles of feminism by wearing an F’ word button, available from the Access & Diversity  office.

For more information, see the UBC Equity Advisors.