About 25 Lane students attended the ”Women Speak” event held at the Women’s Center on May 8, sharing the differences between living in their home countries and abroad.
The event was the first of its kind at Lane and was organized by Rita Loop, advisor for the Women’s Program Transiciones division. Originally from Panama, Loop said that the more women are able to share their personal and cultural experiences, the more they are able to collaborate and grow together.
“Sisterhood goes across cultures. We are not that different, and I believe that this is a movement that is just starting,” Loop said. “Seeing women from different countries come together is the birth of something important.”
Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Libya and Palestine were just some of the countries represented by students in the group. Regardless of barriers with language, the women shared painful experiences from their lives which left many of the participants in tears.
Dominating the informal one-hour event were discussions regarding the cultural differences regarding the status of women in different countries. They talked about their relationships with men and the differences between being married, divorced, and single in their home countries and here in the United States.
“I got married when I was 13. My parents made me get married at that age,” Lourdes Daran from Mexico said. “I have three kids, and coming to the United States was the best thing that happened to me and my kids.”
Daran said she worked two full-time jobs and that she felt guilty because she didn’t feel she spent enough time with her children. She added that there wasn’t any other way to make it as a single mother and that the situation was nothing compared to how her life was in Mexico.
“I was an abused woman. I was mentally and physically abused,” Daran said. “I am not afraid to say. It is why I am the person I am right now. It has made me stronger.”
Lilia Salgado Fletes, also from Mexico, cried as she said she has faced many obstacles and continues to do the best she can no matter what her circumstances.
“I want to give back,” Fletes said. “Now I am crying, but I am strong. I want to be good at everything. I want to be a good friend and I want to be a good student. I’m going to make it. We can do it. We are women, but we can make it.”
Alla Hazim from Palestine said in her country men are responsible for finances and that it is their duty to take care of women financially. She said she worries about money here in the United States.
“There is no homelessness in our country,” Hazim said. “I am from Palestine. She is from Saudi Arabia. She is from Libya,” Hazim said, pointing to the women seated nearest her. “There is no homelessness in our countries.”
Many of the women shared that they had been abused both physically and mentally by men. The women said that leaving such relationships is more difficult in their home countries.
Some of the women noted that wives from previous generations stayed with their husbands longer, whether there was abuse or not. The response from Marcie Parker, who works at the front desk of the Women’s Center, brought laughter around the room.
“I didn’t get married to any of my kids’ dads,” Parker said.
Cecilia Sanchez from Mexico said that even though the women in the room were from different cultures, they have many things in common. “We are here to encourage each other,” she said.
Loop said that the event was a great success. She said it was not just about women sharing together, it was about women speaking up and becoming leaders. Loop said she plans to hold more events at the Women’s Center in coming weeks.