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Perry World House on April 21, 2019.

Credit: Erica Xin

Perry World House will hold an event celebrating the contemporary women’s human rights movement to kick off Women's History Month.

Perry World House Executive Director LaShawn R. Jefferson will moderate the event — titled Global Justice: The Struggle for Women’s Human Rights — which will take place at Perry World House on March 1 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., with a virtual viewing option also available. Penn Law School Associate Dean of International Affairs Rangita de Silva de Alwis will speak about the ongoing fight for universal women’s rights. 

During the event, professor de Silva de Alwis — who also holds positions in Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security and Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program — said she hopes to redefine the women’s rights movement as not just a gender issue but also a human rights issue.

"[Women’s rights] are connected to the right to life, the right to freedom of expression, the right to political participation, the right to property and inheritance, the right to freedom and liberty, the right to equality in the family, the right to decision making in public and private life, the right to education, the right to health, the right to access to justice, and the right to live free from violence," de Silva de Alwis said.

College junior Kristen Arnold, who plans to attend the event, said that although it is heartbreaking that the fight for women’s rights is still an ongoing issue, she hopes that the event will help her learn more about international women’s rights movements.

“It is important to acknowledge that this fight is on multiple fronts,” Arnold said. “This event is important to me because it will help to develop my understanding on the struggles of women internationally and to seek to further the fight from at home and far away.” 

Currently, six countries within the United Nations — including the United States — have not joined the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, also known as the international women’s bill of rights. Despite the lack of action, de Silva de Alwis said she remains hopeful that the women’s rights movement will continue to progress.

“We wouldn’t be making progress if there were no challenges. So it is important for us to be able to understand that in every country, in every age, there will be challenges but these challenges also provide us with the opportunity for change. The progress needs to go on and not rolled back,” de Silva de Alwis said. “The progress keeps happening because the women themselves are fighting for that.”