Viterbo celebrates International Women’s Day

Sam Street, Freelance Writer

On March 8, 2022, the global community came together to celebrate International Women’s Day. Viterbo marked the event with workshops and informational meetings that delved into the discrepancies between men and women in U.S. society and featured experiences of being female in the modern world. These culminated in the main event of the evening: the 10th Annual International Women’s Day Webinar, organized by UW-La Crosse and the LAX Waking Up White Collaborative. The event was hosted on Zoom, free and open to the public. 


Attendees were given a brief introduction by Erica Koonmen, a faculty member at UW- La Crosse. The event was then handed over to Viterbo’s Apryl Denny, who moderated the 90-minute discussion. Participants listened to stories of three immigrant women: Thanh Bui from Vietnam, Sandra Mpemwangi from Congo, and Oresta Felts from Ukraine. These women spoke on differences between the United States and their home countries, difficulties they faced when immigrating to the U.S., and what being a woman means to them.  


Bui came to the U.S. in 2001 with a “huge mentality in celebration that it takes a village, and we are a community.” Bui discussed differences and similarities between her home and the U.S., stating that it is common for women to have a career in Vietnam, but it is still a collectivistic country. She said that while it is still a very patriarchal country, there are good policies enacted for women. About the culture, Bui noted, “Women are valued based on how they look; where they come from,” adding that women face a wage discrepancy in Vietnam. 


Mpemwangi followed her family to the U.S. in 2012, quickly realizing that “the experience of women in America is different than in my hometown.” In Congo, women are usually forced to do housework and care for the family at all times. However, in the U.S., women are, as she puts it, “doing stuff like men.” In fact, Mpemwangi happily pointed out that the only day of the year in which women are not expected to run the house alone is International Women’s Day. On that day, the roles seemingly flip and the men treat the women to a home cooked meal.   


Coming from Ukraine, Felts admitted she hadn’t had to face much discrimination. “Obviously, I’m white. But I understand the privilege that comes with that,” she responded, answering a question about discrimination in the U.S. Despite this privilege, there are other challenges she has faced since coming to the U.S. Similar to the states, Ukraine expects women to have a career as well as run a home, which can seem like a lot to some people. Felts mentioned that women are also expected to focus on education to get a job while also planning a family. “Women suffer in a lot of the same ways in Ukraine as they do here,” said Felts.  

Countries around the globe have been celebrating International Women’s Day for over a century, with Viterbo officially partaking in the celebrations for the past three years. The community hopes to see many more years of dedication and commemoration for women both past and present.