GirlUp raises awareness for human rights

In 2010, GirlUp was founded by the United Nations Foundation as a global movement of young leaders. As their website explains, the empowered young women go through leadership development training to transform themselves, their communities and the world around them. Along with a community of global partners, GirlUp works to achieve gender equality worldwide.

About four years ago, students founded Brandeis’ own branch of GirlUp, “geared towards raising awareness towards lack of access to fundamental human rights around the world, as well as focusing on how women are treated on campus and within college culture,” said the current president of the Brandeis chapter, Simran Tatuskar ’21.

Tatuskar is currently a philosophy and business major, with double minors in legal studies and chemistry. She became involved in GirlUp her first year at Brandeis as an event coordinator, when she planned two “food for thoughts” events to “raise awareness about lack of education in Ethiopia and the societal stigma surrounding reproductive health in India.” The club also hosted a large-scale open forum with the Brandeis Academic Debate And Speech Society (BADASS) and 12-13 other clubs and organizations to discuss “to what extent Brandeis has failed women on campus.”

This semester, GirlUp has a tightly packed schedule of events planned. On March 1, there is a Cupcake Gala from 2 to 5 p.m. in which over 50 female professors will be in attendance to talk with students about their experiences “pursuing their field of work, the challenges they faced in higher academia and how they overcame them, or any insights you can benefit from,” according to the Facebook event for the Cupcake Gala. Tatuskar said that the event has been one year in the making, ever since she was an events coordinator.

GirlUp will be ordering 300 gourmet cupcakes from Antoine’s bakery, and pizza for kosher and gluten free attendees. The event is taking place across multiple rooms in Mandel and Olin-Sang, with “one on-going large scale panel throughout the entire event with rotating professors discussing everything and anything, and then six to seven rooms designated to smaller round-table discussions with professors mixing across every department to discuss particular issues,” wrote Tatuskar to The Brandeis Hoot. She said the point of the event is to have honest conversation about difficulties that women at Brandeis have faced and are currently going through and how female undergraduate and graduate students can “take comfort in knowing the honest truth about issues that do exist and how to move past that and steps that they themselves took.” Some topics that will be discussed include gendered expectations, networking difficulties and work-life balance.

Earlier in the semester, GirlUp participated in Sharsheret’s Cake Wars. Additionally, GirlUp is partnering with Krav Maga for a self defense seminar on March 17, hosting a joint fundraiser with the South Asian Students Association (SASA) to raise money for GirlUp India and hosting a clothing drive on April 14 with Sigma Alpha Mu, a fraternity on campus. Members of the group will also be attending the GirlUp Summit in Boston on March 31.

For Tatuskar, GirlUp is an important addition to the Brandeis community, as the organization focuses on the bigger picture of how women are treated across the world, not just in colleges, so that students can “realize how objectively privileged we are as women to be in the country we are and receive the education that we are receiving and realize our moral obligations to help women much less fortunate around the world to gain just a smaller semblance of human rights,” wrote Tatuskar.

She also mentioned that GirlUp is “the only club that draws attention to how women are treated in collegiate campuses these days… We’re trying to draw a larger attention to how women are treated both in a small scope and a large scope.”

Being the president of GirlUp “has brought [Tatuskar] laughter and tears, stress and exhaustion but also just such a feeling of accomplishment” that has allowed her to do so much more than she would have thought possible as an undergraduate student.

“Being able to assist those less fortunate in terms of civil rights as well as draw attention to collegiate difficulties definitely opens my eyes a lot more to how strong women are and how impressive it is that we handle the problems thrown at us. I love knowing that I am helping to open someone else’s eyes up to an issue they never knew existed and allow the root of the problems to be exposed rather than merely treating the side effects,” she noted in an email to The Hoot.

“Over the last two weeks, I have talked to roughly 300-350 professors, and I can’t believe that was possible, having insightful conversations about their lives and their difficulties and learning so much about what life is like for a women in academia,” she continued about the values of being a member of GirlUp and how it will help her in the years to come.

For students who would like to become involved with GirlUp, they can attend GirlUp’s events this semester, get added to the Listserv, keep track of events on Facebook or email Simran Tatuskar for more details. “I love people who want to get involved and am so excited to watch the club expand and expand,” said Tatuskar.

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