Home Social Justice Annual Women’s Festival Promotes an End to Violence

Annual Women’s Festival Promotes an End to Violence

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From poets of Ghana to henna artists of India to dancers of Irish step, women of all backgrounds shared their talents and stories in Baker University Center this Sunday afternoon for the 5th annual International Women’s Festival.

The festival’s theme, “A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women,” was especially relevant that day according to Susanne Dietzel, the director of the Women’s Center, referring to the resolution of an infamous molestation case.

“Today is a special day because [of] this years’ theme,” she said, “We’ve had the Steubenville case resolved today.”

Committees began meeting to plan the event at the end of fall, lining up dozens of acts throughout the four-hour period. They reached out to student and faculty services as well as different multicultural groups.

“It’s a lot of word of mouth,” Dietzel said.

One performer, Hannah Stanton-Gockel, performed a routine of hula-hoop dancing.

This was her fourth year performing at the annual festival that she believes promotes a relaxed, empowering environment.

“In an event like this, the audience is just having fun,” she said. And if someone messes up? “People don’t really care, they’re just mesmerized by it anyway.”

Stanton-Gockel first began hula hooping for fitness—an appeal she says many women are drawn to. “It’s cool because anyone can learn how to do it,” she said. “Anyone can get the skill level they want, it just requires dedicated practice.”

Stanton-Gockel was joined by other dance groups such as the Ohio University Irish Dancers and the Athens Black Contemporary Dancers.

A five-piece ensemble of strings, clarinet and piano seduced the audience with beautiful syncopated Latin tones. One student shared her struggles with an eating disorder.  Another performed a piece from Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” an event directed by Stanton-Gockel that will be performed by OU students through Saturday, March 23.

Alternating scents of coffee and incense emanated from towards the front of the ballroom from an altar of late influential women and a table of complimentary snacks in the back.

Students, faculty and other observers of all ages were in attendance to observe the different acts as well as mingle with other onlookers outside Baker Ballroom.

There, they found a vibrant array of venders selling red pressed flowers, geometric patterned cloth, multicolored paperback book covers and strings of painted beads for children in Ghana.

That emphasis on diversity is important to Dietzel, and is at the heart of the female empowerment present at the festival. She quoted Virginia Woolfe:

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country,” she recited. “As a woman, my country is the whole world.”

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