Current and prospective members of Yale’s Circle of Women chapter gathered Tuesday evening to celebrate International Women’s Day and raise awareness for girls’ education.
Circle of Women, an entirely student-run nonprofit that promotes access to education for girls around the world, currently has 12 chapters at high schools and universities nationwide. Tuesday’s event, held at the Women’s Center and marking the organization’s 10th anniversary, introduced newcomers to Circle of Women while heralding the group’s new status as an official member of the Women’s Center.
“International Women’s Day is an important holiday for us because it celebrates gender parity and women’s accomplishments,” Circle of Women Executive Director Caroline Jones ’17 said. “As an organization dedicated to decreasing the gender gap in education, Circle aligns perfectly with [the holiday], and we wanted to celebrate Circle-wide. We hope to give International Women’s Day the attention it deserves and start conversations about women’s issues on campus.”
Chapter President Julia Kichorowsky ’17 said Circle of Women petitioned to become an official member of the Women’s Center because their mission aligns with the center’s goals, and the Circle desired to gain access to the additional space and funding that membership status confers.
During the event, attendees wrote responses to letters from girls at the Atsikana Pa Ulendo secondary school in Malawi and decorated a poster board with the reasons they celebrated International Women’s Day. The topic of the letters ranged from the girls’ favorite school subjects and movie stars to their aspirations in life.
Attendees, including Kevin Lin ’19, said they were excited about the event and wished more people had attended.
“I wish more people, especially men, would sign up because I feel like oftentimes men aren’t as involved in gender or feminist issues,” Lin said. “That’s really disappointing because a lot of people could be more involved and more knowledgeable about the lack of educational opportunities for women.”
Founded in 2012 and with roughly 10 currently active members, Circle of Women at Yale is a relatively new and small chapter, Kichorowsky said. She added that the chapter is working to attract more students, especially as older members look toward senior year and graduation.
Kichorowsky said the organization is unique in that it is completely student run. As a result she said, members have both the power to effect change and the opportunity to connect with alumni and board members who are passionate about girls’ education. This form of student leadership empowers Circle of Women members just as much as it does girls in developing countries, National Fundraising Director Elena Conde ’19 added.
“Not only do we empower girls abroad, but we teach students at home professional skills and give them the platform they need to change the world,” Jones said. “With Circle of Women, we create a cycle — a circle — of students empowering students.”
Jones said the Circle of Women plans to increase outreach work and hold several more fundraisers for the duration of the spring semester. The organization’s annual national summit will take place at Yale in the spring and will feature a speaker event open to the public, Kichorowsky noted.
Additionally, the chapter will be selling tickets to a Wednesday Toad’s dance party in late April, and is planning a spring happy hour event during reading period, Kichorowsky said. She added that since the organization just finished a building project abroad that will benefit girls’ education, another opportunity has arisen for member chapters to submit their own building proposals. Typically, chapters submit proposals for projects and the national management team selects one to come to fruition. Once this proposal has been chosen, all of the fundraising activities of the member chapters go toward funding that project. Kichorowsky said the Yale chapter hopes to submit such a proposal.
Other attendees agreed that Circle of Women has the potential to expand this semester and encourage more students to give back.
“I think for most people at Yale, education is a large part of who we are,” Chapter Public Relations Manager Ben Wong ’19 said. “Most of the biggest role models in my life have been women, and this is a way to pay respect to all these women and to invest in young girls around the world what the women in my life have invested in me.”
Correction, March 9: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Elena Conde ’19 as Circle of Women’s chapter director of fundraising. In fact, she is the national director of fundraising.