Event celebrates women across the world

This Sunday Portland State will host the 31st International Women’s Day Celebration. The event will feature workshops, entertainment and vendor booths centered around the theme “Embracing Self Expression.” The free event will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Smith Center Ballroom.

While most individuals involved in the planning tend to gravitate toward the feminist persuasion, event co-coordinator Cassie Clements made it clear this is not a political event. “My point is to make the event as nonpolitical as possible,” Clements said. Political parties were welcome to sign up for booths at the expo, but the day is more about embracing women’s events, she said.

A concerted effort for inclusiveness inspired this year’s theme, which was finalized last fall in the planning stages. “We wanted something that didn’t trap people,” she said.

One workshop particularly indicative of the all-encompassing endeavor is a spiritual panel including representatives from different religious groups. Clements said the divide between religious and women’s issues is just an appearance.

There will also be a presentation by the “Raging Grannies,” which represents an inclusion of generations.

The nonprofit organization, Portland International Women’s Day, Inc. (PIWD) and the PSU Women’s Resource Center are co-sponsoring the event and began the planning last August. This is Clements’ first year as a coordinator for the annual event, but she said she has much to draw on from the past. “There’s a lot to go on,” she said.

Early in the planning stages, the coordinators discussed the ambiguity in the title. Should they focus more on international women within the Portland community or women on an international scope? Given the rising immigration and growing interconnectivity of the world, Clements said they decided to include both.

Keeping with the multicultural inclusion, informational workshops on services and resources available to women in the community will be presented in multiple languages. Nan Stark, table coordinator for the event, said they want to emphasize an international focus through a mix of entertainment, vendors and workshops. “Part of that expression has to do with different cultural expressions,” Stark said.

A theme of embracing self-expression may beckon thoughts of art and music, but Clements pointed out that it extends to other creative processes such as using herbs for teas and steamed facials. There will be a health room at the event offering free massages and information on resources available in the community.

Last year’s theme regarded crossing generations in an effort to bring a younger set into the feminine flock. The youthful demographics of a college campus make PSU an enticing venue for the event. Many participants have been involved since the occasion burgeoned three decades ago. Stark noted that last year’s intentions to attract the next generation paid off. “The committee is quite a bit younger this year,” Stark said.

This year will have a better mix of younger and older table vendors, with something for everyone, Stark said. Girls, Inc., a young nonprofit organization, will host a table and focus on issues women in Portland did not have to face 30 years ago such as girls in gangs. The National Organization for Women (NOW) will host a table as well. According to Stark, NOW was one of the first women’s organizations that brought attention to feminist ideology in the 1960s and inspired positive changes for women.

Stark has attended the conference over the years and called the workshops offered incredibly informative, inspiring and empowering. “It’s interesting to see what people are and are not aware of,” she said.

Advocate of the electronic sounds of the South Asian diasporas, D.J. Anjali was added to the docket of performers last week. Free childcare will also be offered.