Two human-rights-based organizations exist at Lawrence, and one of them, the Downer Feminist Council, has staved off extinction. After its three members graduated last year, rumors had been floating around that the other human-rights organization Amnesty International was going to absorb the DFC and adopt what had been the DFC’s specific women’s rights focus.
This is not to be the case. Lauren Schulte, a sophomore passionate about women’s rights, has stepped up as new president of the DFC and is attempting to not only keep her barely-revived organization alive, but to make it thrive. Jamie Cartwright, treasurer of both Amnesty International and the DFC, had successfully appealed to the LUCC to re-recognize funding for the women’s rights organization, and he foresees a healthy mutual relationship between the two groups to foster human rights at large.
Cartwright hopes for the two groups to “support each others’ events, share financial resources and collaborate on campaign efforts.” “Being the two most important rights-based groups on campus, there is a need to work together as much as possible,” he stated.
To Schulte, the DFC’s relationship with Amnesty International is only a step in the larger process of establishing women’s rights as an important issue on campus. “People may see feminism as a scary, man-hating thing, but it’s really about equality for everyone,” she said. “A lot of people are intimidated by the word ‘feminism,’ but it’s more about how hard it is sometimes to be a women in certain places and situations.”
Some of DFC’s core issues include women equality, reproductive rights, education rights, maternal mortality — the safety of pregnant and childbearing women — gender violence, prostitution/human trafficking and poverty. Schulte envisions community projects that give busy college students accessible opportunities to help downtrodden women, whether through anti-sexual-harassment campaigns, volunteering efforts at a local shelter for abused or oppressed women, fundraising for girls’ schools in impoverished areas or projects tailored to members’ individual interests. At this point, though, she simply wants members.
“Awareness is the beginning of everything,” Schulte said. According to Schulte, people who want to make a difference can do so in their immediate surroundings just by being visible and “getting the word out” about women’s rights. She plans to individualize membership — to make each member “a necessary part of the organization” and to give them each “a specific task, a specific area of women’s rights they are interested in.”
The DFC meets every other Tuesday on the fourth floor of the Warch Campus Center. The next meeting is Oct. 11.