For decades, members of the Women's Coalition (WOCO) at Arizona State University have fought for gender equity on their campuses and in their local communities. And although the coronavirus pandemic impacted the organization's ability to host in-person events during 2021, their fight never stopped.
This year, WOCO brought back their signature celebration of Women’s HERstory Month, the Badass Block Party, on Wednesday, March 16, as part of the #BadassWomenofASU campaign launched in 2020 to recognize and appreciate women’s accomplishments within the ASU community.
“This year, it really followed the theme of our overall HERstory Month, which was focused on nurturing our growth, resiliency and focusing on our own well-being,” said Farhat Ali, president of WOCO. “We wanted to make it a lot more of a fun atmosphere, but one that recognized that a lot of women do find growth when it comes to creating their own organizations and businesses, and being able to sustain themselves through their passions.”
The ASU Society of Women Engineers, Alpha Epsilon Phi, ASU Rainbow Coalition and Women’s Business Leaders Association were just a few of the organizations represented at the event. Small businesses sold candles, jewelry, false eyelashes, bouquets and more. Students engaged with club leaders, purchased goods, danced to music and enjoyed free food.
WOCO Secretary Intern Celina Torres and Director of Programming Camila Diaz handed out shirts and free wellness packages filled with various goodies to arriving guests.
“We all have the same goal: to promote women’s rights, especially on campus, and to advocate for women,” Diaz said.
ASU alumna and member of the Navajo Nation Ceyshe Lee sold colorful beaded jewelry that she handmade.
“Everything I made is made with a lot of love, thoughts and prayers,” Lee said. “I put a lot of that into everything I make in order to bring that to the world, to bring a little healing, especially with my Indigenous community.”
Lee had previously tabled at the 2020 Badass Block Party as a member of the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples.
“I really enjoyed being surrounded by all these empowering women and all the small businesses that they had at the time,” Lee said. “It really made me want to start my own business, so that is where Turtle Crush Creations was born.”
Lee said she planned to donate 20% of the earnings from the event to coalitions supporting Indigenous women and breast cancer awareness.
Ali identified three major goals for the coalition: Fight for equitable pay among professors across various fields; support retention rates of women of color; and boost the voices of victims of sexual violence.
The Menstrual Equity Campaign is also a top priority for WOCO. The initiative was created by PPGen @ ASU in 2018, but WOCO has played an integral role in supporting the campaign that advocates for free menstrual products in all ASU bathrooms.
Other initiatives supported by WOCO include advocating for the creation of the Campus Assault Advocacy, Resources & Education Center (CAARE) and hosting mutual aid drives to ensure that all women in the Tempe area have access to the resources.
“We have definitely pushed for a lot more intersectional work this year. Especially work that focuses on Black women, women of color and women that have typically been pushed out of positions in STEM and fields where there are primarily men,” Ali said.
WOCO Director of Marketing Richie Ukhade also serves as the president of Women In Animation (WIA) at ASU, an international organization that supports women’s careers in animation, a historically male-dominated industry. WIA at ASU aims to create a community for animation students that provides the resources needed to succeed, such as networking opportunities and guest speakers from the industry.
On Thursday, April 7, WOCO is hosting its first-ever Take Back the Night event in Tempe. Guest performers will use various forms of artistic expression “to acknowledge the harm of sexual violence while moving toward healing and finding solidarity in the community,” according to the event page.
“We love when people want to get involved with WOCO,” Ali said. “We have opened up a lot more opportunities for volunteering, so any time we have an event and someone is interested in volunteering, our Instagram page is the best place to go.”
Ali plans to graduate from ASU in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Bachelor of Science in women and gender studies, with a certificate in socio-legal studies.
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