Over the course of March, The University of Maine’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion is celebrating Women’s History Month with a series of programs regarding the intersectionality of women and diversity.
Anila Karunakar is the director of Diversity and Inclusion at UMaine. She emphasizes the role the student staff has in what goes on.
“This is why we have student staff. They put in proposals, what they wanna do,” Karunakar said. “It comes from the little geniuses I surround myself with.”
The ODI student lead is a semesterly position, for which anyone can apply.
The programs are open to everybody, regardless of what they identify as.
“When I say women, I mean anyone who calls themselves a woman,” Karunakar said. “It’s for anyone. I don’t think there’s a women’s-only anything right now. Because all of it is informational, all of it is an opportunity to learn.”
The ODI strives to have informational programs for all of the university, even if only small groups come.
“People who showed were mostly people who show up to all our things,” Karunakar said. “I’d love to see the staff and faculty. These programs are for all UMaine people. Students say oh, we don’t do anything, UMaine doesn’t do anything. Here’s all these people doing all this work.”
Coming back from break, the ODI has four more events for the remainder of Women’s History Month.
On March 22 is the “Call me Crazy: Identity and Emotional Invalidation” program. This program partners with Title IX and discusses how women are spoken to and how they can be invalidated by their peers. Karuknar expanded on the program.
“[It’s about] seeing how women are talked down to. When they’re really passionate and people just say oh, you’re so crazy, don’t talk about that,” Karuknar said.
On March 24 is the Black hair culture program. Titled “HAIRitage: Exploring Black Hair Culture,” the program deals with education and discussion about Black hair and the culture around it. Karuknar brought up the difficulties those with Black hair may have, even something as simple as getting hair products, that others may not understand.
On March 25 is a self-care program for students with children. The program will have space for children to have fun while parents can have time to relax, pick up a self-care kit and socialise with other parents.
The final event is “The PWI Experience with Isatu Bah” on March 31. This program is a talk about being a Black female at a Predominantly White Institution. While the ODI has a full month for Women’s History Month, Karunakar expressed the wish for more to be done for everyone.
“Ideally I would like to work myself out of a job. I would want equity in every system,” Karunakar said.
In addition to programs that are already being planned, the ODI is looking to find new ways to help students. The ODI listens to what students’ needs are and hopes to offer solutions. For instance, one of the most pressing issues on campus is students not having access to menstrual products.
The ODI is a student-led organization and does not run at the university level. It includes the Rainbow Resource Center, the Multicultural Student Center and the Intersectional Feminist Resource Center. The purpose of these centers is to provide safe spaces to minority groups on campus.
You can find the ODI on instagram @umaineodi and on their website.