For the third year in a row, ever since the first cohort of UWC Dilijan students set it up, Inclusivity Week has been an integral part of college life. Inclusivity Week is a time for the school community to speak openly about the social issues that affect our daily lives; as young people, as women, as people of colour, as people who experience and deal with disabilities. These are subjects that are sensitive, but ones that should nevertheless should be discussed in an open place such as our school, where we pride ourselves on our diversity and acceptance.
Inclusivity Week this year has been a platform for this to take place. It was initially a concoction of three focus weeks, all with focuses on gender taboos, beauty ideals, feminism and gender minority treatment. We gathered together to fuse our ideas in one, fully-packed week.
The eventful week started off with a role play that turned “catcalling” upside down, placing males as the victims of this phenomena, pointing out the unjust way society deals with verbal and/or physical assault against women. If it is not okay for men, it is certainly not okay for women either. During break time as well, there was a powerful flashmob that highlighted the ongoing issue of child circumcision around the world, reporting on some surprising statistics. This flashmob was also an announcement of the Tuesday screening of the movie “Desert Flower”, about a woman who flees from Somalia to the U.K., and is discovered and turned into a supermodel.
On Wednesday, the Accessibility Committee initiated “Disability Day”, in which students chose a disability they were going to spend the day with - blindness, deafness, being mute, not having an arm or a leg. This social experiment was powerful because it presented, even if a little, the struggle that disabled people go through every day. It also revealed to what extent our school is accessible.
The “privilege game” was also a part of exploring ourselves and the people around us and an opportunity to talk about our privileges that we are born with. In the beginning, everyone stood in a line, side by side. Then someone would make a statement, such as “if you are not afraid to walk alone at night, take a step forward” or “if you have been discriminated against in your school based on your gender or race, take a step backwards”, and then you could in fact see how much privilege affects us in our opportunities and lifestyles. This opened the door to some honest and personal discussions that many of us found enlightening.
See more about the Focus Week in Elena's (Italy, UWCD'18) Vlog:
On Friday, during the break there was a very special “encore” and a theatrical performance. My friend Elani and I sang a powerful feminist song from the sixties called “You Don’t Own Me”, with a piano accompanying us, while my friend Dua presented a symbolic short act on prostitution and the issues around it. Both proved to be very moving, because we tackled an issue that many are not very comfortable opening up about.
This very important week was then concluded with “Coffee and Fiction”, where anyone could read out any type of literature at the student-run 4-6 Cups café. The main topics of the readings were diversity, inclusion and empowerment: it was cosy and emotional, and brought many of us closer together.
I especially feel the importance of events such as Inclusivity Week to be one of the most amazing aspects of my UWC experience. I organised something I feel passionate about, and it is one of the main reasons I came here; to open up, discover global issues that I can get direct experience from because of our international student body, and for everyone to be able to share their own opinions without fear of repression.
Pamela, Lebanon, UWCD’17