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#MeToo Global Roundtable Highlights Areas for Growth Around the World

Photos: Ellen Murphy

Ten panelists took their seats in a semicircle with the backdrop of fiery red wings. A hum of discussion and the sound of photographers snapping from the outskirts filled the room. The diverse panelists were ready to relay their thoughts to those gathered in the Student Success Center, and to those viewing the livestream of the event from Temple University’s Japan Campus.

On March 15, the #MeToo Global Roundtable was held at the Student Success Center on Temple’s campus. The panel comprised 10 international students studying at Temple University. The Q&A based platform explored the panelists’ observations and backgrounds on gender and power, and highlighted how action could be taken to improve existing inequalities.

Sediqa Fahimi, an Afghan Fulbright Scholar, spotted the elephant in the room when she questioned the lack of men present in the audience. A quick scan revealed there were five men in a crowd of 20 or more women.

“Men need to support women.” Fahimi said.

Several nods around the room indicated the consensus that men were underrepresented at this event.

Nevertheless, those present included women from vastly different cultural backgrounds, who were united in their will to be heard.

The countries represented included China, Afghanistan, South Korea, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Pakistan, Vietnam, Czech Republic and India.

The solidarity felt amongst those gathered resonated deeply. Personal stories quickly set an emotional tone and within 20 minutes the tissue box was put to use.

Nhi Nguyen, an Temple student from Ho Chi Minh City, expressed her appreciation for being able to “speak up and use my voice” in the U.S. because in South Vietnam, female submissivity is the norm.

Rjaa Ahmed, a Temple student from Pakistan, echoed Nguyen’s thoughts:

“It is important to realise your privilege in the U.S. and use it to support other women,” Ahmed said.

Women speaking out was the reason why the #MeToo Movement grew internationally.

The movement stands against the sexual harassment and sexual assault of women in daily life, whether that be in the workplace, in personal relationships or in the media.

Thanks to social media, the movement gained enormous momentum after celebrities came forward in support using the hashtag #MeToo, which went viral in October 2017.

The roundtable highlighted why the movement was still so important in 2019, especially in countries that do not offer women the same rights as men.

Fahimi mentioned the Afghan Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law that was passed in 2009 and amended in 2018 inresponse to women’s rights activists. Although there is still a ways to go in tackling the prevalent issue, speaking out for what is right had a significant effect.

On a smaller scale, the prejudices women face in everyday life were discussed.

AnaCatalina, a Temple student from Costa Rica said, “Sexism is hardwired in our culture.”

So how does the #MeToo movement address these issues?

Several panelists agreed that pointing out to friends and family members sexist or patriarchal standards is one way to make a change.

Ahmed explained that when she visited her relatives, they asked not how her education or hobbies were going but how her love life was treating her, even saying the older she got, the less successful she would be in finding a partner.

“I’m not a juice box. I don’t have a shelf life.” Ahmed said. A chorus of laughter came from the audience in reply.

The panelists agreed that with family and friends it is important to be firm but fair when helping them to understand the equal treatment of men and women in modern society.

Nearing the end of the discussion, Anh Nguyen, a Temple journalism graduate and the organiser of the event, stood up to ask whether equal rights for men and women should be taught from a young age.

Yes, was the unanimous answer.