Boston University’s HeForShe event creates awareness for violence against women

‘The origin of being a woman is to be a woman of change and change the world’

Boston University HeForShe, a chapter of United Nations Entity of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), held their first event of the semester on October 19.

The event, titled “Spotlight: Shining Light on Female Violence," brought Maria Noel Vaeza, director of the programme division at UN Women, in to discuss domestic violence against women and how students can help decrease this violence against them.

“I believe in transformity of change, and in order to have transformity of change we need to listen to each other instead of disrespecting each other, we need to calm down and find a common ground,” Vaeza said during her speech.

Photo: Meghan Cronin.

Photo: Meghan Cronin.

The HeForShe campaign is only one year old at Boston University but has already made a huge impact on awareness for gender equality and other concepts.

After a successful first year last year with events revolving around HeForShe’s six focus areas — politics, health, identity, education, violence, and work — the club felt it would be beneficial to actually bring a representative from UN Women to BU. This led the club to bring Vaeza in to speak.

“She can give attendees the greatest breadth of knowledge since she promotes what we advocate for a living,” said Grace Li, vice president of BU HeForShe. “She is an extremely successful and influential international businesswoman and advocates for gender equality. We thought this type of a speaker could attract the widest range of audiences, including those interested in foreign affairs and international business, and those who hope to learn more about what the UN is doing to advocate for gender equality.”

The event also has a special place in the club’s heart — Ms. Vaeza is BU HeForShe president Francesca Ogilvie Vaeza’s mother.

Photo: Meghan Cronin.

Photo: Meghan Cronin.

“She has been an inspiration for Francesca her entire life,” Li said. “She is a strong, successful woman, and we knew that her passion for her work would call others to action.”

Ogilvie Vaeza took action to prepare the event, planning with her mother every detail.

“I spent days coordinating with my mom as to when she would be able to come, what topics she would cover that would be of interest to current college students at BU, how we wanted the event to be managed, and so on,” Oglivie Vaeza said.

The talk’s main focus was to educate college students about violence against women, especially in the workforce, so that when women graduate from school they understand the difficulty there is for women to find jobs.

“UN Women in general want to educate college students the importance of gender for when they graduate and go into the workforce,” Ogilvie Vaeza said.

Throughout the event, Vaeza referenced a study conducted by the United Nations to figure out the reason there is a small amount of women currently in the workforce. UN Women found that the main reason was due to violence against women, because if a woman has experienced violence toward them they were more likely to be out of the office.

Photo: Meghan Cronin.

Photo: Meghan Cronin.

Not only is there violence against women in the modern workplace, there is also violence against women in politics. Only 13 percent of women were in parliament, which Vaeza called an extremely low amount.

Other reasons that attributed to the low numbers of women in the workforce were that they are not given access to proper childcare. They found that women had trouble finding good care to leave their child in while they work, and were more likely to have unpaid jobs such as being caretakers of their children.

“A way to fix this problem is to create better childcare for women to be able to work, childcare here needs to position an economy of care," Vaeza said. "By the campaign creating awareness and giving peer pressure generates help in women receiving jobs.”

In addition, their data showed that 80 percent of jobs for women were in the informal sector (jobs that are not taxed), and that men were fearful that women will replace their positions if hired in the formal sector.

Less than one third of women had senior management positions, according to Vaeza. She said ways to counteract this issue would be to create awareness that females statistically actually help “grow the pie” and do not take away from job positions that are currently filled by males and instead add to companies in positive ways, especially in the science and technology field.

"The UN Women are currently fighting for girls in the STEM workforce because in 10 years it is estimated that 90 percent of all jobs will disappear due to technological advances, so STEM is important because it will help women get jobs in the future," Vaeza said.

Photo: Meghan Cronin.

Photo: Meghan Cronin.

To spread the data’s results and create awareness of violence against women, UN Women lit up famous buildings and structures, such as the Empire State Building and the pyramids in Egypt, around the world orange, the color of awareness for violence against women. The UN Women also held a activism event over the span of 16 days as a way to educate as many people as possible about the violence against women.

"Educating people with the data is so important because if there is no data there is no public policy, so data segregated by sex is super important,” Vaeza said.

BU HeForShe will also be holding their own 16 days of activism event to create awareness of this in the BU community.

Oglivie Vaeza hopes this event and their 16 days of activism will show that people can make a difference and change the world for all of us in the BU community and beyond.

“Violence against women happens in so many places that our peers will encounter either as woman/femme or as a man benefitting or suffering from the systems in place,” Oglivie Vaeza said. “It happened with the professors who have sexually harassed students, it happened when the administration does not hire women to fulfill higher-paid positions, it happens when sexual assault on campus is permitted without legal repercussions. It affects us all.”