The Gender Initiative for Gender Issues(GIGI) club is committed to increasing student awareness and discussion of gender issues worldwide.
Plattsburgh State senior and club founder Nusrat Aparna said she was inspired to create the club after taking the Global Gender Issues course with professor Jada Secone who expanded Aparna’s views and knowledge on gender issues.
“I was really inspired by how she taught gender issues on a global perspective and how certain issues weren’t known to the student population,” PSUC psychology major Aparna said. “Knowing Plattsburgh is a small community, I believe not a lot of students know what’s going on around us.”
GIGI’s biggest project this semester was its trip to the United Nations in New York City with one mission in mind: acquire access to sit and participate in a UN Women’s Rights Conference.
Because GIGI is not sponsored by a state representative, Aparna said, it took the trip to the UN to learn the process they need to take in order to be able to speak at the next Women’s Conference next semester.
Aparna said the trip was successful because now that the board members know the mandatory steps, they can start preparing for their next trip to the UN, choosing which concerns they want to voice at the next conference.
The members are also reflecting on their experience at the UN to decide which of the gender issues they learned to highlight on campus.
Aparna said the trip was particularly helpful in increasing her knowledge of gender issues that she felt were limited prior to the trip as she is not a gender and women’s studies major.
“I learned a lot more about women’s rights and human rights in a different perspective,” Aparna said.
Since they started as a club, GIGI has established a reputation for reaching out to other clubs to continue its mission of increasing awareness and conversations of global gender issues.
Last semester, in honor of International Women’s Day, GIGI collaborated with the Indian Culture and Entertainment club and the Organization for Women of Ethnicity to create a fundraiser to spotlight the issue of acid attacks against women. They gave 100 percent of the donations to the Acid Survivors Foundation, a Bangladeshi non-government organization that is dedicated to raising awareness of and preventing acid attacks.
This month, GIGI is currently focused on creating a fundraising event for breast cancer awareness and planning to collaborate with the Center of Women’s Concerns. Further details have not yet been decided.
There is more on the agenda for GIGI, however, than just increasing student awareness.
PSUC junior and GIGI’s Vice President Saejuti Kanungo said providing a safe environment for students to speak about these issues is right next to increasing awareness on matters of importance.
“Many people aren’t motivated or are afraid to speak about these kinds of issues,” Kanungo said. “We want to give people the motivation and courage to speak out about issues they see around them or that they themselves are facing in their daily lives.”
Kanungo reassures that the club serves as a nonjudgmental space, and students don’t need to worry about being picked on or condemned for their thoughts.
Aparna and Kanungo also realize the prevalence of lack of education surrounding gender issues contribute to the apathetic attitude and stigma surrounding them.
“Let’s be honest,” Aparna said. “Us college students are in our own world so much that we don’t really look [outward] to learn things that are general knowledge in other places.”
Aparna realizes her love of learning about other cultures stems from her being an immigrant herself, being born in Bangladesh and raised in New York City.
Kanungo and Aparna further emphasize that gender issues are not reserved for women but also include men and people of other gender identifications. Both women have become much more aware that men, transgender and people of all gender identification face their own issues that deserve more attention and advocacy.
For Kanungo, GIGI has inspired her to create some projects of her own. An international student from Bangladesh, Kanungo said she is determined to start an NGO back home dedicated to educating parents and families on the power of educating young girls and women.
“I was fortunate enough to have parents who wanted me to have an education and send me to college here in the U.S.,” Kanungo said. “I want to take what I’ve learned back home and show parents and families that girls can do a lot if given the right opportunities and facilities.”
GIGI recently elected new board members as its positions serve for only one term. They are currently seeking someone to fill its PR position.
The club’s general meetings are held on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. in meeting room six.
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