WAM brings important issues to light

This March marks both Women’s Awareness Month (WAM) and the 11th year of the Women’s Awareness program at Tech. Started in 1997 by Jennifer Orr, the former president of the Women’s Student Union, the event was originally known as Women’s Awareness Week and included a week’s worth of programming to discuss and increase awareness of women’s issues at Tech. Since its inception, WAM has grown to include community outreach, service and informational presentations.

WAM events kicked off on Feb. 29 with Women’s Night on the Wall at the CRC. This year, WAM has been sponsored by Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council, the Athletic Association, SmartLiving, the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), Celestial Seasonings and sororities such as Alpha Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta and Zeta Tau Alpha. Events include outreach to local high schools, middle schools and Girl Scouts, a fashion show, a service day project and informational sessions about self-defense, sexual assault/abuse and stress management.

“I’m actually part of…the whole Women’s Awareness Month group. I’m working on the [Red Dress Fashion Show]. I helped with the kickoff, day of service and international coffee night,” said Stephanie Yang, third-year Computational Media major and WAM webmaster.

One of the most profound traditions of WAM every year is Take Back the Night. This year, Take Back the Night celebrated its 14th year since its inception on March 11. Organized by Zeta Tau Alpha, WRC and third-year Physics major and Programs Chair Caitie Gold, Take Back the Night is a candle-lit ceremony at the Campanile aimed at raising awareness and educating the Tech community about rape and sexual violence.

“I am the Women’s Awareness Month advisor. I work as a program coordinator at the WRC. Zeta as well as Panhellenic has worked together to put on this event,” said WAM faculty advisor and WRC Program Coordinator Colleen Peterson.

This year, Take Back the Night included survivor stories, poems, information about resources from the WRC, the Georgia Tech Counseling Center and Police Department, a performance by the GIFTED Gospel Choir and a candle lighting ceremony. Participants attended a reception after the ceremony. Proceeds from sales of t-shirts at the event went to the Piedmont Rape Crisis Center.

“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been really cool working with Caitie, you can really tell she cares about the event and what she’s doing. It’s been really exciting working with one of my sisters outside my sorority,” said second-year Architecture major Rachel McLaughlin.

The presentations were geared toward statistics to educate the Tech community. For example, at Tech alone, one in four women may be the victim of rape. In addition, 15 out of 16 rapists will walk free of consequences.

“This event in particular is used to raise awareness of sexual violence through education, statistics [and] stories…One in four women…will be sexually assaulted at some time in their lifetime. Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted,” Peterson said.

“I’ve never been sexually abused, but I think that it’s important to educate girls about sexual abuse and [that] it’s a really important thing [to] know,” Yang said.

Not only do these events incorporate the Georgia Tech community, but they also involve the participation of sponsors and guests from across the country. For example, at the first organized Red Dress Fashion Show event at Tech, WAM members and participants will be modeling dresses provided by Macy’s as part of the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women.” The initiative is a campaign against heart disease in women, which is the number one cause of death for women.

While the month of March is coming to a close, it is not too late to participate in WAM and its events.

Final WAM events this month include comedian Paula Poundstone at the Ferst Center on Mar. 28, a reading of The Secret Life of Bees by Dean Stephanie Ray at the Women’s Resource Center on Mar. 29, Girl Scout outreach on Mar. 29 and Cap and (Wedding) Gown on Mar. 31.

Planning for WAM 2009 has also begun through the committee application process. If interested in joining the WAM 2009 committee, applications can be found at cyberbuzz.gatech.edu/wam, and are due at Women’s Resource Center in the Student Services Building, Suite 131 by 5 p.m. on April 7.

For more information about WRC, WAM or any of WAM’s events, visit www.womenscenter.gatech.edu.