March 10, 2004

Ceremony Recognizes Outstanding Women

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The International Students and Scholars Office and Cornell Women’s Resource Center hosted International Women’s Day yesterday at the A.D. White House with a celebration culminating in an award ceremony for outstanding women in the community.

Kelly Connison, CWRC director, and Mary Schlarb, assistant director for programming at the ISSO, introduced each of the 23 women students, professors and local residents who were nominated for special recognition.

The first woman announced was Florence Finch, who was awarded the Congressional Metal of Freedom, the highest award available to a civilian in America, for her actions in the Philippines during World War II. Other recipients included Lucy Thairu grad, a Ph.D. candidate whose research includes the perception of breastfeeding and HIV transmission in developing countries, and Dammi Herath, executive director of the Women’s Opportunity Center, who was nominated “for her life-long contributions to women in transition.”

According to Connison, she and Schlarb sent out e-mails to various mailing lists to solicit nominations for the awards. Every woman who was nominated was recognized at the ceremony with a bouquet of flowers and a certificate, as well as a brief description of her achievements.

The event began with a reception, followed by performances by the Tezia Belly Dance Troup, Sabor Latino Dance Ensemble and Tarana Hindi A Capella. Schlarb introduced the groups, each of which listed exploration and performance of their respective cultures as their purposes. The Tarana Hindi A Capella group performed a Hindi song which Schlarb said “encapsulates the energy and enthusiasm of young women in a progressive world.”

CWRC director Kelly Connison, who was one of the award recipients, estimated that about 125 people attended the event, which she said was more than expected. Only about half of the recipients responded to confirm that they would come, Connison said, but all but three, one of whom is currently abroad, ended up coming.

One of the recipients, Prof. N’Dri Assie-Lumumba, Africana studies, said that she stayed in Ithaca for the event even though she had a conference in Salt Lake City. She said that this was her second time to receive the award, but that this time it was different because she was nominated by a student, whereas her last nomination came from a faculty member.

“This time it is a student [who nominated me], so it gives it even more meaning,” Assie-Lumumba said. “When young people in search of their own path say you give them inspiration, it gives meaning to what we do.”

According to Schlarb, who prefaced the award ceremony with a brief explanation of International Women’s Day’s history, the holiday “is celebrated by the United Nations, governments, women’s groups and individuals all over the world.” It was first recognized in the United States as National Women’s Day in 1909 and was expanded to an international holiday in 1911.

Schlarb said that countries celebrate the day in different ways. She compared its Russian version to Valentine’s Day, with men giving women presents, and also said that in China and Mali, women are given the day off in recognition of the holiday.

The day was first recognized at Cornell in 2001, when the ISSO and CWRC “came together to honor women in the local community who have contributed to the betterment of global society,” Schlarb said. She added that Cornell has “a great community of deserving individuals” whose contributions extend past Cornell.

Audience members seemed to be impressed by the women’s achievements.

“It’s very inspiring to hear about women who make really enormous contributions to the community worldwide, not just at Cornell,” said Sarah Reed ’04.

Connison said that she “thought [the event] went great,” adding that this was the first year that they had performances and that she was very impressed by how they turned out. She and Schlarb also expressed amazement at the achievements of the women they honored. Schlarb encouraged people to “look out for the announcement for [nominations] next year.”

She added that men were eligible for the award as well.

Archived article by Yuval Shavit