Empowerment as Equals: a review of the 2015 International Perspectives Conference

 

The second annual student-run International Perspectives Conference (IPC) was held from October 22nd to 24th this year. The conference focused on political, social, and economic issues on the international scene. These issues included human rights, gender equality, and political justice.

IPC existed as the Pan-African Conference for fourteen years until it was renamed as IPC in 2014. With the rapid growth in globalization and the increased number of connections between nations, the directors of the conference recognized a need to incorporate multiple perspectives from around the world. These perspectives include Principia’s, which is a college that promotes diversity and has many international students.

This year’s IPC focused on the theme of “Empowerment as Equals” as it stretches across economy, class, gender, religion and ethnicity. The speakers at the conference came from a wide range of countries, including Kenya and Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India, France and the United States. They provided insight, education, and inspiration to the campus and beyond.

The keynote speaker at IPC was Micere Githae Mugo, a poet, playwright, and literary critic from from Kenya and Zimbabwe. She was an emeritus full professor who retired from the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University in May 2015. Under the theme “empowering and humanizing visions for the world by progressive African orature artists and writers” she discussed a wide range of human rights issues and discussed how artists have a role in ending them on an international level by empowering others through their work.

Speaker Khaled Hasan, from Bangladesh, has been a documentary photographer and filmmaker since 2001. He was a freelancer for several daily newspapers in Bangladesh and for international magazines. After his talk, attendees were invited to view his photo exhibition in Leonard Hall, which showcased images of humanitarian issues including natural disasters, wars, religious persecution, torture, and domestic violence, among others. Khaled’s main exhibition focused on his documentary photo series titled “Leave me Alone,” which explored the phenomenon of “acid throwing,” where perpetrators (usually men) disfigure their victims (usually women) with acid attacks because of petty disputes. While acid throwing is a worldwide phenomenon, Hasan focused on women in Bangladesh and the lifelong effects of the attacks.

Urmi Basu, from India, gave a talk titled “Development in the context of marginalization and exclusion” which discussed human trafficking in India. This practice mostly affects children and women. Basu described the efforts that she made to alleviate the suffering of children in India who cannot access food, shelter and education. She started a small non-profit organisation named New Light that has been operating for 15 years in Kolkata. New Light promotes gender equality and educates children, as well as fights child prostitution, child labour, and domestic violence.

Speaker Susan Dane Setin is a Christian Science practitioner and businesswoman from Los Angeles, CA. In her talk, “Global impact of leadership in business,” she discussed issues related to the economy, including how to be a successful businessperson. She also shared her experience as a successful entrepreneur in marketing and branding, as well as in incentive travel.

Jeff Perera, from Canada, concluded the IPC conference by showing a movie called  “The Mask you Live In” and giving a talk titled “Striving to be a better man: being an ally.” The talk focused on gender issues, including male dominance/patriarchy and masculinity. Through an open discussion, Perea explored the causes of toxic masculinity, how it can be controlled, and how society can achieve gender equality.

The conference was organized by the IPC board, a team of Principia students that included directors Anna-Zoë Herr and Sergio Zapata Cornejo. At the conference, speakers, students, parents and faculty interacted through different presentations and talks.

Herr said, “I feel like over the course of the conference many people have been inspired, enriched and blessed by the speakers and their individual messages. I loved that we found so many speakers with very different backgrounds and ideas that ranged across continents and mindsets. […] Because the different speakers were international it felt to me like Principia opened up and deepened its sense of what it means to be a global family. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from people that were immensely touched.”

Sophomore and IPC assistant graphic designer Jamie Yu said, “Working with the IPC board was special because I connected with different people, including speakers. [This was] because they were friendly [and had a] sense of love which they shared with students. IPC was not just a talk, but [a chance for]  interaction.”

Freshman Joab Onsabwa said, “[Micere Githae Mugo’s talk] was great because it mentioned all the things I was thinking about about Africa and the world in general. The speaker from my country, Kenya, made me proud as she spoke about issues related to Kenya and also countries like south Africa, Rwanda, Zambia, Nigeria, Egypt and others. [This] made me feel proud as an international student at Principia.”

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