By Laura Azahar–

Empowering, educating and encouraging U of L students, staff and faculty to take on issues affecting women, the Women 4 Women Student Chapter at U of L provides these opportunities for all those interested.

Women 4 Women has been a Registered Student Organization, RSO, since 2008, supervised by the Women’s Center.  They are based off their parent non-profit organization in the greater Louisville area.

On Wednesday, Jan. 16,  the Women 4 Women Student Chapter hosted their third annual Human Trafficking Conference. The Red Barn was a full house of guest speakers including Colleen Collins, co-founder and director of the Anchal Project, and keynote speaker Toshia Kimbler, executive assistant of Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution and a victim of human trafficking. Kimbler said, “It is important to have organizations and events like these on campuses, because who else is going to bring awareness?”

The Women 4 Women Student Chapter’s mission is to improve the health and economic well-being of women and girls by increasing awareness, expanding resources and creating solutions to strengthen the U of L community.

The conference brought awareness to modern-day slavery, which happens to approximately 800,000 people each year across national borders, not including the millions that happen within them. Eighty percent of the victims are women, and fifty percent are minors, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Branka Damjanovic, a junior English and Sociology major at U of L attended the event and considered it important. “This is happening in our backyard,” she said. “As a woman, and I mean everyone else too, can be vulnerable to this issue.”

The current chapter president, Emma Chapman, is a junior and an equine administration major. She said that one of her goals for the school year was to make the Human Trafficking Conference bigger and better than previous years. She believes she reached her goal by the attendance she saw as well as the attention it received; all four major local networks broadcasted the event.

Chapman plans to stay with the RSO until she graduates. “Women 4 Women is such an integral part of my life here at U of L,” she said, “I really can’t imagine being without it.”

Besides the education and awareness, the conference helped raise money through a silent auction for the summer service learning program to Peru. Some members and staff of Women 4 Women will be going to Peru to work in a shelter where some young women have gone through human trafficking. Men who participate will be going to an orphanage nearby to help. Applications for the program are due Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013.

Valerie Casey, the Women 4 Women adviser and the Women’s Center Interim Director, has seen the group grow since its beginning. She said that while the group’s structure, members and staff are sound, there is room for improvement by reaching out and touching more people.

Currently the members of the Women 4 Women Student Chapter are women, but men are encouraged to join. “I think it is absolutely important that the Women 4 Women student group be inclusive not only in gender, race, sexual orientation and all forms of diversity,” Casey said, “We not only need women to be enlightened and empowered, but we need allies.”

The organization is student driven. The Women’s Center provides the student members with leadership, business and networking skills. This RSO seeks funding from the university as well as outside corporations. They help students network as well to step outside their comfort level and learn communication skills which mostly only business majors receive.

Other events by the Women 4 Women organization conducts are empowerment luncheons, leadership conferences, a mentoring program and an annual conference for the Provost.

Ashley Wimsett is the graduate assistant at the Women’s Center and is in charge of the mentoring program within Women 4 Women. She was part of the chapter as an undergraduate. “I stayed with it because of the opportunities that arose from the student group,” she said, “My favorite part of it, is that it turned into a job for me. It gave me an internship, and now my graduate assistantship.”

The Women 4 Women Student Chapter at U of L has proven to be more than just resume filler for its members. While other organizations offer extracurricular activities, this RSO is like a second job that the students embrace and can take ownership. Visit their Facebook page, Women 4 Women Student Chapter. Their next meeting will be on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 at 2 p.m. on the second floor of the University Club in the alumni board room.

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