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A group of students discussed gender, cultural, backgrounds, and intersectionality at the Penn Women’s Center on Thursday evening as part of a new initiative called the Seneca Safe Space.

Credit: Luke Chen

Around a coffee table in Penn Women’s Center on a Thursday evening, a circle of students talk about gender, cultural backgrounds and intersectionality. This is Seneca Safe Space.

Launched in 2012 at Penn, Yale and Stanford, Seneca International is an organization that works to shine a spotlight on issues that affect women worldwide and to combat these issues, such as violence, political marginalization and economic hardship.

Pioneering this year at Penn, Seneca Safe Space is the group’s new initiative aimed at providing a “safe respectful, judgment-free zone to fulfill the needs of people who identify as women of color,” said College sophomore Meghana Nallajerla, the director of internal relations at Penn's Seneca International chapter.

“We are also trying to talk about needs of women of color in the U.S and how that can differ from what mainstream feminism can do at the same time,” Nallajerla said.

The group had seen a void that could be filled at Penn: the lack of a space for discussion that encompassed all women of color, as opposed to smaller minority groups. While other discussion groups exist, Seneca International had noticed that there was no discussion space to combine minorities of different backgrounds to talk about how their identities affect issues unique to women.

“There isn't a platform to do that. There’s no platform for all women on campus,” Nallajerla said.

Seneca Safe Space’s format of discussion is “inspired by the spaces that exist,” Penn's Seneca International President and College senior Gloria Huangpu said, such as “the Vagina Monologues and Sister Sister.” The Seneca Safe Space meetings are discussion-based and confidential. A representative from Counseling and Psychological Services attends the meetings to help guide discussion. The meetings are open to the general public, both those who identify as women and not.

Although it was publicized mostly in the Seneca International community and through Facebook groups, Seneca International is “definitely hoping to make this more available to the rest of campus,” Huangpu said. 

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