The third summit focused on mental health, discrimination and the Red Card Campaign.
Last Thursday, Chancellor Elizabeth Stroble and Jameca Woody-Cooper participated in the third Women of the Diaspora Summit. The event focused on issues concerning mental health and discrimination among women in the African diaspora.
The summit’s goal was to bring awareness to gender and race discrimination, particularly in healthcare and counseling. The event also encouraged participants to take steps in helping reduce violence against women.
Stroble, who leads the university’s partnership with African Renaissance and Diaspora Network (ARDN), co-moderated the summit. She also helped ARDN launch their international Red Card Campaign last year, which strives to eliminate violence against women and girls.
The event was organized by the Republic of Costa Rica, United Nations Population Fund, ARDN and United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. Webster students, faculty and staff were welcome to register for the free webinar on the event website.
The press release for the event stated, “the summit will focus on how women of the diaspora are among people living in the most threatening mental health conditions … exacerbated by the stress and anxiety triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Gabriela Ramos, assistant director-general for Social and Human Sciences of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, advocated for equality for women in her speech as guest speaker.
“We need more recognition to the contributions of women,” Ramos said during the summit. “Women have been deemed essential in terms of sustaining the health systems and servicing sectors that continue the society and economy, but they were not really recognized or paid as essential.”
Woody-Cooper, who is a faculty member in the School of Education, served as a panelist for the summit. She is a counseling psychologist and was recently appointed to serve on a committee in the American Psychological Association.
According to Woody-Cooper, there are several types of discrimination towards women. Women are paid less in their jobs and those jobs are less stable. Women are expected to maintain sole responsibility of childcare, along with other obligations. They also do not have adequate access to mental healthcare, and there are few representative doctors for women of color.
“I am in the 5% of all psychologists in the United States that are African American,” Woody-Cooper said during the summit. “In St. Louis, the numbers of African Americans are 12-15%. We don’t have enough practitioners of color … to cover the needs of individuals in those areas.”
Furthermore, Woody-Cooper said economic discrimination is a challenge during the pandemic.
“In the United States, what we’ve seen a lot of is COVID testing facilities or COVID vaccine resources in certain parts of cities, counties and states,” Woody-Cooper said. “Most of the time, that has to do with who lives in those areas and usually it is not individuals who are lower income.”
Ramos stated that women are overrepresented in poverty. This affects life expectancy, the ability to hold a stable job and the level of care they can provide for their children and themselves.
The summit revolved around the commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8. The event also celebrated the United Nation establishing March 21 at the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“Discussing the issues of gender and race in March is particularly symbolic, especially in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected women and girls,” Stroble said at the event.
The press release also quoted the 1995 Beijing Declaration as a supporting reason for the summit; that “the intersectionality of gender and racial discrimination causes a higher vulnerability and systematic violations in all of the areas of social life for women and girls.”
Stroble concluded the event with encouragement to help fight discrimination and violence against women.
“I have great gratitude to my colleagues, faculty staff and students at Webster University who have engaged so many students in raising the Red Card and we invite all of you to join us,” Stroble said.