The College of Arts and Letters will be holding a week of events Dec. 5-8 titled “Surviving Voices” to raise awareness about gender based violence and women’s human rights and to honor international human rights day, which is Dec. 10.
The week is primarily the product of the efforts of three ISU faculty members, Malliga Och, Elizabeth Brunner and Justin Lee. They estimate they have each put in well over 100 hours of work on the project.
Each night will feature a different event and all events will have local service members available for discussion.
“We’ve designed it in this way to move it from the more local to the global” Brunner said. “For every event it’s structured so that we’re working with issues that may impact people across different cultures, and we’re pairing them with local service providers.”
The first night, Dec. 5, will feature a screening of “In Plain Sight,” a documentary about human trafficking, at 6 p.m. in Frazier Hall. Law enforcement officials and representatives from Operation Underground Railroad will be in attendance to answer questions and hold a discussion.
Dec. 6 will feature a keynote speech, as well as a question and answer session and book signing, from Elizabeth Smart, a kidnapping survivor who has since become an activist for child safety and sexual assault survivors. Although she was originally scheduled to speak in Frazier Hall at 4 p.m, the speech will now be moved to the Stephens Performing Arts Center due to the popularity of the event. Local organizations such as the Family Services Alliance will be available that night to provide information and resources.
“We wanted someone to be very familiar to the community and who has experienced gender based violence,” Och said. Brunner added that she believes many college students may not be aware of Elizabeth Smart’s story, and this would be an excellent opportunity to hear her speak and gain a deeper understanding of the issues women face.
The next night, Dec. 7, will feature a performance of “Voices,” a play about domestic and sexual violence. It will be performed by students in the dance and theater programs and feature choreography by Lenora Lee. The performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. At 6:30 p.m, Christine Hart, a member of the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, will be giving a speech on how to recognize and prevent gender based violence on a local level. The Family Services Alliance will also be available that night.
Finally, on Dec. 8, there will be a matinee performance of “Voices” for local high school students. Additionally, the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance will be present to discuss the issues, especially those most prevalent to high school students.
“We’ll tailor the resources available to the age group, so it’s not just for adults, but we really start the conversation early with a young generation,” Och said.
All events are free and open to the public, although tickets for the Elizabeth Smart speech must be reserved. All tickets are currently sold out, but Och and Brunner said they hope to give a second chance at reserving tickets. However, there will also be a waiting list in the event that someone with reserved tickets is unable to make it to the speech.
The week has been primarily funded through grants, such as a $2,000 grant from the Idaho Humanities Council and $1,000 from ISU Credit Union, and private donations.
Although this is the first time a week of events of this nature is being held, Brunner and Och agreed they would like to see it continued, but want to see how this first year goes.
“This is a great opportunity for ISU to connect with a larger community,” Brunner said. “This is bringing the world to [Pocatello].”
Brunner and Och also stated they hope the events will, at the very least, bring more awareness to the community.
“I would just want people to start a conversation,” Och said. “For me, it’s a conversation I’ve always had. It’s a talked about topic, but it depends on where you live and the community, how prevalent the talk is.”
Brunner added that the topics being discussed during these events are ones that have a greater effect on the community than people may know.
“The more I live here, the more I realize how much these issues really do affect students in my classes and other people in the community, and it’s also not talked about very much,” Brunner said.