Close to 500 attend 6th annual Women’s History Month Conference

Students+participate+in+Laughter+Yoga%2C+one+of+the+workshops+available+at+the+Women%27s+Conference+on+Wednesday+and+Thursday.

Amanda Guillen

Students participate in Laughter Yoga, one of the workshops available at the Women’s Conference on Wednesday and Thursday.

The sixth annual Women’s History Month Conference was held on Wednesday and Thursday at the UTEP Student Union. With over 60 panels and workshops, the conference covered different topics surrounding women’s issues on a national and local level.

Interim director of the Women and Gender Studies Program, Guillermina Gina Nuñez-Mchiri said that close to 500 people were present at the different panels and workshops on each day.

“We celebrate women and the search for equity,” Nuñez said. “It’s important that we are aware that there is a patriarchal system that we tend to operate under. So men get paid more than women and now when we have more women going to college and getting degrees, learning skills. We want equity in the labor force, equity in health care, equity in the media.”

All of the panels and workshops were held in different conference rooms on the first floor of the Student Union Building East and in the Tomás Rivera Conference Center.

One of the events titled “Gender, Sexuality, and Violence in the Borderlands” talked about a transgender warrior in colonial times and the history of sex trafficking in the border.

Nuñez said this conference provided information that will allow all attendees to learn something new.

Emily Guerra, senior anthropology major, attended this type of conference two years ago and decided to join this year as well.

“It’s an interesting event. It’s cool to see the different things involved in women’s issues and history. It’s important to learn different topics that affect a lot of people,” Guerra said.

Dr. Patricia Zavella, the keynote speaker, prepared a lecture called “The Human Right to Reproductive Health.” Zavella received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and currently teaches at the University of California Santa Cruz.

“The key note speaker’s topic was really important because reproductive rights is a big issue,” Guerra said. “With Planned Parenthood closing and abortion being a big issue, understanding how reproductive justice not only affects women but everyone as well because of lack of health care is really important. Coming here, you spread knowledge about it.”

Some events talked about support for transgender people, domestic violence, sexual assault and information on UTEP organizations, among many other topics.

The Tomás Rivera Conference Center got packed to honor Kathleen Staudt, political science professor and co-founder of the UTEP Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

Staudt encourages all her students to enroll in service learning opportunities. Students and faculty of the university said Staudt has been an inspiration for them.

“She is very influential,” said Carolina Monsivais, doctoral history student. “When I go present at other conferences and I present on my topics, everyone mentions her. She is known in this country for her work.”

Along with UTEP professors, and guest speakers, some students were also given the opportunity to conduct a discussion on the topic given. Jenna Kubitz, senior multidisciplinary studies major, talked about “Sex Positive Feminism and Online Privacy.”

“Being a first-time presenter was very nerve racking and I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Kubitz said. “But I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of men that were attending as well as women.”

Though this conference was about women, men were encouraged to attended as well. Among those, Esteban Estrada, sophomore English and American literature major, participated in one of the panels and found it to be neutral for both genders.

“Even though it’s a women’s conference it really doesn’t make a difference,” Estrada said. “You could still relate easily, doesn’t really have to be male or female oriented. Everybody can just get on the same page.”

Rene Delgadio and Gloria Heredia may be reached at [email protected]