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Women’s History Month gives time for reflection

March 24, 2016

Much has changed in the United States since the days of the suffragettes fighting for their basic, democratic rights. Now, of course, things are vastly better for women of the western world.

It is a subject of debate currently whether women are entirely equal in the US, with each side presenting at least some valid points. However, regardless of the answer, Women's History Month is made no less important as a time to focus on and celebrate half of the world's population.

UW-River Falls has done a fine job of putting on events for the occasion, including a panel discussing "Global Perspectives on Education" in honor of International Women's Day on March 8, to Professor Lisa Wade discussing "hookup culture" in a two-part series March 22 and 23. The series of events will be wrapped up Tuesday, March 29, with another panel, "Doing Feminism," featuring sociology, criminology and anthropology professors Paige Miller and Desiree Wiesen-Martin along with management and marketing professor Wei Zheng, who has taught courses such as "ethical leadership" and "managing workplace diversity."

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which will afford time to focus even more on this terrible and commonly discussed issue. While there are not as many events planned geared toward this subject in April compared to those which focused on women this month -- at least according to the UWRF event calendar -- one does not need an event to discuss these topics and find ways to contribute toward the fight against sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence. As a side note, while it will doubtless focus heavily on female victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, it should be remembered that men who have experienced this sort of violence are equally valid as victims whose stories and experiences deserve the same attention and sympathy. UWRF will, again, be putting on "Take Back the Night" alongside the St. Croix Valley Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). This is a truly great event whose purpose, as the St. Croix Valley SART website describes it, is "to empower and support survivors, raise awareness and let it be known that this violence will not be tolerated."

These events in our area are hugely important and have been -- and will likely continue to be -- great, but there is more that should be discussed, especially during this time of the year. We must not forget about the women who have to face legitimate oppression and patriarchy in other areas of the world – those who are treated as being below men. There is no single country that is specifically rife with these problems; there are plenty -- take Somalia as an example where, according to a report from UNICEF, in the years 2004-2015, the chances of girls and women aged 15-49 undergoing female genital mutilation were 98 percent.

At the end of the day, while we should be thinking about these issues every month of the year, March and April help us focus on these important matters and give us a chance to look outside our own country and consider what can and should be done for underprivileged women abroad.