Students meet to plan for International Education Week at Eastern Mennonite University. The event begins with a production of "Seven" in the Studio Theater on Monday [Oct. 12] and ends with a culinary contest on Friday. From left, Anna Yu, Victoria Gunawan, Mona Alkuaybi, Aminata Wallet Mohamed, Kevin Clark. (Photos by Randi B. Hagi)

Join international students in celebrating women around the world at the third annual International Education Week

October 12-16 marks a time of education and celebration at Eastern Mennonite University of “how women around the world have influenced us in one way or another,” says International Education Week coordinator Wael Gamtessa.

This is the third year Multicultural and International Student Services has hosted the series of events, which includes a theater production on Monday; a “Remember the Heroines” vigil for women killed in Mexico on Tuesday; and two events on Friday: chapel with Center for Justice and Peacebuilding graduate student Myriam Aziz and Darsheel Sehbi, and the “Taste of EMU” cooking contest.

A committee from the International Student Organization chooses a new theme each year. The 2015 committee includes students Gamtessa, Brenda Soka, Winifred Gray-Johnson, Abdel Barry and Emmanuel Kampanga.


International students are the planners of this third annual celebration. From left: Nana Konadu-Ampratwum, Winifred Gray-Johnson, Wael Gamtessa and Gee Paegar.
International students are the planners of this third annual celebration. From left: Nana Konadu-Ampratwum, Winifred Gray-Johnson, Wael Gamtessa and Gee Paegar.

Monday’s performance of “Seven” will be in the Studio Theater at 7 p.m. A collaboration of seven female playwrights from around the world, this documentary play is a series of monologues based on interviews with international women leaders. Directed by theater professor Heidi Winters Vogel, “Seven” chronicles the worldwide struggles for empowerment, peace and well-being in Russia, protecting women from domestic violence; in Cambodia, with victims of human trafficking; in Guatemala, with the poor; in Afghanistan, with rural women; in Nigeria and Pakistan, for women’s education and rights; and in Northern Ireland, promoting peace and equality, according to the production’s website.

Olga Baltazar, who reads for the Guatemalan character Annabella de Leon, does not see herself as an actress. However, reading the script convinced her to join the cast. “These women rose from against all odds of their culture to fight for women’s’ rights,” says Baltazar, who is from Mexico. “I feel connected to to my character because I, for one, represent a culture where women are often put down.”

“These stories have inspired me,” says Rebekah York, a senior from Romania who plays an Irish woman named Inez McCormack. “To see that women have been supporting each other and empowering other women over the years is truly amazing. Sometimes we can feel so alone in our work, but looking at history and reading about some pretty incredible women of the past fills me with hope.”

Vogel says the “powerful piece” will be presented as a concert reading. Baltazar and York are joined by cast members Victoria Gunawan, Adila Wahdat, Dera Nwankwo and Iryna Clamp.

‘Taste of EMU’

The ‘Taste of EMU’ competition on Friday is open to all community members. To participate, contact Susannah Lepley in the Multicultural and International Student Services office. Up to $20 of ingredient expenses can be reimbursed.

“I was part of the food festival last year as a participant, but this year I’m really happy that I got the chance to help coordinate this event,” says Gamtessa, a sophomore computer engineering major from Ethiopia.

“Last year, we had to cook [for the contest] as part of my global connections class,” Gamtessa explains. “This year, we changed the name from the ‘International Food Festival’ to ‘Taste of EMU’ because we didn’t want to restrict the food to the international community. We want anyone and everyone who is willing to do it, to prepare something  which they believe has meaning to them and people around them and share it with the campus community.We hope this experience will take people down the road and across the globe.”

Senior Zoe Parakuo from Kenya competed last year with one of her favorite snacks, samosas – a savory, fried pastry. Samosas “were adapted by Kenyans when Indians settled there back in the day, so I thought a lot of people would be familiar with it,” says Parakuo. “I wanted students to enjoy my food.”