Program addresses women’s empowerment

Photo by: Megan DeWitt

Alyssa Hardy, Staff Writer

The third annual Women’s Empowerment Program, sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Multicultural Advisory Board, took place on Wednesday, March 23 in order to commemorate Women’s History Month.

According to Daphe Carter, the Assistant Dean of Students, the event was created to “focus on current issues facing women, and how women can use education to rise above societal challenges.”

Deloris Samuel served as the keynote speaker for the Women’s Empowerment Program.  Samuel, a sophomore majoring in English, was chosen to speak at the event by Carter and the Multicultural Advisory Board because of her experience with specific issues that conformed to the goals of the program.

Samuel spoke to a group of FMU students and faculty about issues facing today’s women during the Women’s Empowerment Program, which took place in Lowrimore Auditorium.

Samuel used her time behind the podium to speak about such issues as low self esteem and sexual abuse, both of which she had personally experienced.

“I know, as women, we face a lot of problems,” Samuel said.  “But today, I chose to talk about only a few out of a billion.”

Her own struggle with low self esteem was a primary focus as she spoke.  The verbal abuse she endured as a child because of her skin tone fueled her inspirational speech at the program.

“It was and is so hard to feel good about myself when I was constantly made to feel hideous as a child,” Samuel said. “In our society, so much importance is put on looking a certain way.”

Samuel spent time discussing the importance of personal identity, and how it is vital to one’s individual spirit that is discovered. She also said that everyone should appreciate and embrace who they are.

“We may come in different shapes and colors, but we are all beautiful in our own way,” Samuel said.

In Samuel’s opinion, the “flaws” that people see in themselves should be embraced and loved.  As Samuel shared her personal struggle with low self esteem, she provided many options for women dealing with the same issue.

“Low self esteem is something I still struggle with,” Samuel said.  “It’s taken a lot of tears, counseling, praying and supporting friends to finally accept that there’s nothing wrong with being dark skinned.”

Samuel then switched gears to speak about her own struggles with a past of sexual abuse.  Samuel sought to encourage victimized women and men to speak out if they had been affected by what she called a “senseless crime.”

“Don’t be ashamed,” Samuel said.  “There is nothing to be ashamed of because it is not your fault, even though I know many people fall into that trap of believing it is.”

Samuel gave her audience words of advice to avoid putting themselves into the “risky situation” of sexual assault.  She stressed that individuals communicate their physical limits clearly, be assertive, trust their instincts and be smart when fighting back.

The purpose of her speech was to not only increase awareness of the issues plaguing both women and men, but to also provide the idea of education as an outlet to better the futures of the victims.

“Education has empowered Ms. Samuel,” Dr. Janis McWayne, Coordinator of Health and Gender Studies Programs, said.  “She is the first person in her family to graduate high school and hopes to be the first person to graduate college.”

Guests who attended the program applauded Samuel’s courage to stand up and discuss her past and current issues.

“We’re very proud of her for being so brave and outspoken on issues that have clearly affected her,” sophomore Cody Simpson said regarding Samuel’s speech.

The Women’s Empowerment Program was held to commemorate Women’s History Month, which takes place every March.

Previous themes of the event covered subjects like women in leadership and gender acceptance.  As the program grows, Carter hopes to branch out and provide forums and events catered specifically to men as well.