In recent days, the College has celebrated great women at local level who have given voice and action to the theme of International Women’s Day, Choose to Challenge. Our assembly last week and our IWD breakfast today, both led by College Captains Harriette and Chloe, provided many wonderful opportunities for reflection and empowerment. In this newsletter piece, I offer a few highlights from these presentations.
Clare Moody, Head of Student Formation, along with Chloe and Harriette noted the following to set the scene for International Women’s Day:
The campaign theme for this year’s IWD is “Choose to Challenge”, and the UN Women’s 2021 global theme is "Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world", which celebrates the tremendous work of women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there is much to celebrate, there is still much work to do:
"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." (Gloria Steinem). Change is not just about big headline moments, legal victories and international agreements: the way we talk, think, and act every day can create a ripple effect that benefits everyone.
Two examples of this by women of Siena were celebrated this week.
At our College Assembly last week, Siena College Alumna Olivia Kourmadias, from the Class of 2018, was acknowledged. In her brief time since finishing at Siena, Olivia is driving the Monumental Women campaign, through the youth led organization Jasiri, which will “smash the bronze ceiling” by addressing the lack of female representation in Australia’s statues, place names and architecture. This project aims to honour Australia’s influential leaders throughout history.
Olivia writes “We want every young girl to look up at the fearless women before them and embody their power and spirit. We want every young girl to aspire to be leaders capable of being immortalised in bronze. They too can then be commemorated as a statue, can become a monumental woman, who inspires the next generation of monumental women.”
Deb Phyland, Class of 1982, was our guest speaker at the 2021 IWD breakfast. Deb spoke about her personal and professional life being shaped by the Dominican sisters, staff and friendships forged during her time at Siena. Deb reflected honestly and powerfully about her personal experiences of choosing to challenge gendered norms in her professional life. She also recalled a time at school when she herself was challenged to choose a different perspective, which in turn shaped her relationships and mindset. While listening to her wonderful address, I was struck by Deb’s reflective stance – about women, about education and about life. In her opening words Deb noted that never before and never since her time at Siena has she experienced such full strength of women united around each other for good. This enduring memory and her generous reflections provided much for the current generation of Siena students to learn from and further appreciate about the gift of a Siena education, for life.
The IWD breakfast began with a lovely prayer, prepared by Sr Sheila Flynn OP, from which this closing verse is offered:
God of truth and love,
You remind us that women stand in the centre of the Good News and continue to confront us with issues of integrity, dignity and responsibility.
May we continue to be outraged wherever human dignity is compromised.
May we be those ears to listen.
May we be that voice like St. Catherine of Siena was in her time
so that the drama of grace and your life in us may effect transformation in our time.