NoVA’s Empowering Voices Awareness Week: A Success
Last week the No Violence Alliance (NoVA), along with the help of various staff, faculty, students and interns, hosted their awareness week, which they have every semester. This year’s theme was “Empowering Voices” and focused on empowering victims of sexual assault and harassment to voice their opposition to these commonly accepted norms of sexual assault and harassment. The event lasted three days, from Wednesday November 7th until Friday the 9th, and featured events such as a Round Table with various Moroccan women’s rights activists, a political discussion with the Moroccan Politics Club at AUI, a conversation about religious stories and how they relate to women’s rights and an event hosted by the Amnesty International Club at AUI where students performed songs, dances, poems and more to display their support for the cause.
The first day of the event included a Round Table event which featured panelists from the Masaktach Movement Laila Slassi, Aida Alami and Maria Karim, and Soufiyan Saaoudi from the project Sem3i Sawtk. Topics from the conversation included the new Moroccan anti-harassment law, personal stories of assault or harassment, cultural and societal norms, assault statistics and more. The panelists talked about their stories and how they came to create the Masaktach movement after the now internationally known story of a Moroccan woman named Khadija who was kidnapped, raped and tortured for over two months earlier this year. The Masaktach movement is also largely the reason that many Moroccan radio stations have stopped playing the Moroccan singer Saad Lamjarred’s music after he was arrested in France for his fourth rape accusation in the past eight years.
On Wednesday, the AUI Amnesty International Club held their “Jamnesty” event titled “Empowering Voices through Art” which included students performing poems, songs, dances, and dramatic reenactments all centered around the theme of the week. On Thursday, the Interfaith Alliance held an interactive discussion with Reverend Karen Thomas Smith leading the discussion titled “Empowering Voices through Religious Stories” in which they examined sacred texts and the stories within them that displayed empowered women, namely the story of Hajar in Islam.
Following the Interfaith Alliance discussion, AUI’s Moroccan Politics Club held a discussion in the Student Lounge centered around Moroccan politics and sexual harassment and assault. A large portion of the conversation centered around the new Moroccan anti-harassment law, the effectiveness of laws regarding these issues, if the current legal system is doing enough to prevent these crimes and the protect victims of them, and whether the overarching societal view towards these issues was more or less important than the actual legal structure surrounding these issues. A big debate during the discussion was regarding how society views these issues, and the impact it has on the legal procedure and outcome of sexual assault and harassment cases. Many people questioned whether the current legal system, regardless of whether it was sufficient enough or not, could make a difference if societal norms and opinions on these issues are not changed, while others argued that it was mainly the fault of the legal system not being effective enough.
Overall, NoVA’s “Empowering Voices” Awareness Week was a success that saw a large amount of students engaging in dialogue about an extremely important issue that impacts people all over the world. It brought students, staff and faculty all together to discuss a very important issue, and made a positive impact on those who participated in the events. Next semester NoVA will be hosting another Awareness Week with a different theme surrounding sexual assault and harassment, and they look forward to seeing even more members of the AUI community being involved.