UTEP’s annual women’s conference offers a space for shared experiences

Noelia Gonzalez

Noelia Gonzalez, Staff Reporter

UTEP’s Women’s and Gender Studies program along with Ignite UTEP virtually hosted the 11th Women’s and Gender Studies History Month conference March 910.  

The event featured pre-recorded video presentations, including live panel discussions and bilingual lectures, accompanied by visual art, dance, music and poetry. Despite UTEP’s continued network shutdown, the conference was able to take place as scheduled.   

A panel that garnished attention from the UTEP and El Paso community was the live keynote event with U.S. Representatives Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, moderated by KTEP’s News Director Angela Kocherga. 

The discussion focused on current events from immigration to the siege at the United States Capitol. Escobar and Garcia explained their future and current plans for legislation and the work they are putting to pass the Dream Act, the Promise Act and the Farm Worker Modernization Act under President Joe Biden’s administration. 

“I think this year in particular it’s really important that we’re seeing the congresswomen talking about their experience running and their experiences right now in congress,” said Maissa Khatib, one of the co-chairs for this year’s conference. “Thinking about all of the issues that have happened over these last four years, but in particular over this last election cycle. 

Khatib explained it is important to hear women in power talk about struggles and pertinent issues the country is experiencing, as it brings attention to issues particularly faced by the Latino community. 

This mission was reiterated at the Femme Frontera Film Showcase, which streamed on Vimeo all-day long for both days of the conference. Femme Frontera is a film organization made up of female-identifying filmmakers from the U.S.-Mexico border region, celebrating women’s unique voices through showcasing work, funding projects, and providing film education. 

The showcase included eight different films directed by women and featuring story plots around women’s struggles, resilience and success. The event was followed by a live panel where a Femme Frontera Filmmaker Q&A was hosted via Zoom, with Angie Tures, the executive director of Femme Frontera and some of the film directors.  

The film festival has been going on for a number of years and it’s always been an opportunity for women and non-binary folks to express the issues that they see in their community, said Naomi Fertman, a conference co-chair and lecturer at UTEP. 

The last live event of the women’s conference was Voices of the Border, a literary event featuring local authors Julieta Paez and Inés Gallo De Urioste, moderated by UTEP English professor Barbara Zimbalist. 

Paez and Urioste read excerpts from their stories and shared their journey and motivation for writing such pieces. These writers wrote in two different styles yet they both related their writing to life experiences as immigrants living in a foreign country. 

Paez wrote from the perspective of her characters but still related her experiences through their eyes, while Urioste shared a short story she wrote through her personal point of view.  

“It’s encouraging our audience, mainly females, girls, and UTEP women by hearing their story,” Fertman said. 

Noelia Gonzalez may be reached at p[email protected] ;@OfficialNoeliaG on Twitter.