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Women activists promote their causes on campus

Freshman political science and strategic and corporate communication double major Katherine Khaloo is the secretary of I Am That Girl and the only freshman on the executive board. Photo by Kaitlin Homan.

Katherine Khaloo, a freshman political science and strategic and corporate communication major, marched along with 750,000 other women and men into Pershing Square for the Los Angeles Women’s March. Within the first five minutes Khaloo was shedding tears with her friends, amazed at the passion of the people around her.

A large chalkboard was set up in the street, attracting marchers to write down who they were there for. Khaloo watched as a young black girl strayed from the crowd and broke away from her mother to draw on the chalkboard.

“She was maybe 5 years old and she drew a heart on the chalkboard,” Khaloo said. “That moment will always be in my head. It really touched my heart.”

This year, Chapman students have organized and participated in campus protests and marches, including those the day after the election.

“Activism on campus is a really important outlet for students to find their voices and a community that’s different than their own,” said Sandra Alvarez, a political science professor. “College provides a really important space to figure out how you relate to others.”

This year, Chapman students have protested and held marches against xenophobia and advocated for such causes as transgender rights and immigration rights. Some students stand out for their personal advocacy and work for the cause they support.

Many women on Chapman’s campus are taking advantage of this space, following their true passions and advocating for the causes closest to their hearts.

Katherine Khaloo

“Especially in college, you get into that rhythm of superficial conversations about your year and major,” Khaloo said. “That’s great, but sometimes you want to have real honest conversation.”

I Am That Girl has helped Khaloo find those real conversations she was looking for. After coming to Chapman, Khaloo became the club’s only freshman on the executive board. As secretary, she helps with ideas and organization as well as sending out weekly emails and regulating the Facebook page.

“I came to Chapman around the time of the election so (I Am That Girl) definitely became an outlet for me to be an activist,” she said.

To Khaloo, being an activist is as easy as having open conversations with her peers. She said that empowering her friends is important to her, especially when it comes to gender equality.

“I have friends that don’t consider themselves to be feminists,” Khaloo said. “That’s ok, but I think it’s crucial to have a responsible conversation about it and be open to each other’s points of view.”

Another cause Khaloo is passionate about is helping her friends be more confident in themselves. Although she loves Chapman, Khaloo said that she often hears complaints of the way people present themselves on campus.

“I think everyone at the beginning of the semester thought they had to dress up everyday,” she said. “Now, If I want to wear sweatpants I will, but if I want to put on winged eyeliner, I’ll do that.”

Khaloo also advocates for more meaningful interaction that goes beyond talking about partying over the weekend or the Greek organization someone is affiliated with.

“I want to get to know people more deeply,” she said. “I’ve started asking people about their dreams and aspirations instead of mundane things.”

Khaloo said that being able to be an activist on the local scale with friends and family is most important to her.

“I just want to do something that has a positive effect on the world,” Khaloo said. “There are so many possibilities, and I just want to bring as much good to the world as I can.”

Taylor Onderko

Taylor Onderko, senior peace studies major, is the president of the J Street U club. Photo by Kaitlin Homan.

Senior peace studies major Taylor Onderko has been an activist since she was a young girl growing up in metropolitan Detroit.

“My mom took me to political rallies when I was little, so standing up for things I’m really passionate about has always been a big part of my life,” Onderko said.

Taylor grew up doing school exchange programs with schools in inner-city Detroit and participated in many interfaith programs that educated her on the lives of her neighbors.

Seeing the Muslim and Jewish communities really form strong bonds was an integral part of my education outside of school,” she said. “Those experiences pushed me in the direction of peace studies.”

Onderko said that activism takes three different roles: education and awareness, advocacy, and action. She says she tries to exhibit all types, whether through her recent internship at the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism or through her work on campus.

This year, Onderko started the club J Street U, a campus arm of the larger organization J Street, which is dedicated to finding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict. One of their biggest campaigns was called Show Up for Susya, a Palestinian village that was at risk for being demolished.

“No matter what I do, activism will always be in my life,” she said. “The most important thing is to show up for other people, even if you don’t belong to their community.”

Alisha Greene

Alisha Greene, a sophomore political science and strategic and corporate communication double major, is the president of the Planned Parenthood Generation Action club. Photo by Kaitlin Homan.

It was during a class in her senior year of high school that sophomore political science and strategic and corporate communication major Alisha Greene first realized her passion for women’s health.

“In the 15 minutes we talked about women’s health, I realized I didn’t know anything we went over,” Greene said. “The conversation became really sexualized and politicized, but this is our health we’re talking about. It should be about learning how to take care of our bodies.”

Now, years later, Greene is the president of Chapman’s new club Planned Parenthood Generation Action. So far the club has unofficially helped organize the Santa Ana Women’s March but plans to “provide a space for women’s rights advocates to plan and host advocacy projects and events.”

Aside from her work at Chapman, Greene and her fellow volunteers at Planned Parenthood traveled to Sacramento Jan. 2017 to thank state legislators for their support.

“We held a big rally outside the state capitol building with celebrities and other supporters,” Greene said.

She has also worked on a congressional campaign for former California State Senator Joe Dunn as well as Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, both of whom support women’s rights.

“After working on these campaigns I realized how close our elected officials are,” Greene said. “They’re real people who you can talk to, and they will listen to us, most of the time.”

Greene said that finding something you’re passionate about and educating your community, or even one person about the cause makes you an activist.

“You can be an activist on social media,” she said. “It’s helpful if you do more, but everyone helps the best way they can.”

Greene said her activism is inspired by the people she meets in the community. At a tabling event for Planned Parenthood at Irvine Spectrum, she and her friend were approached by men and women thanking them for their work.

“Planned Parenthood provides a lot of health and prenatal services, so a lot of people told us they wouldn’t have their career or their kids without (Planned Parenthood),” Greene said.

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