By Carmen Twillie Ambar
PDF of position paper
As an institution dedicated to women’s education and women’s
leadership, we would be remiss if we did not position those two
principles in a greater context. At the foundation of our work is a
goal to prepare students for the world they will soon inherit. We are
keenly aware that narrowly limiting our students’ understanding of
the world–to only our state or our country–would leave them
unprepared the moment they left our bucolic campus.
In our developing strategic plan, global connectivity has emerged as one of several core focus areas, and numerous proposals have been submitted to strengthen our work.
Looking forward, one could imagine this College building a variety of study-abroad programs, including those with faculty and student exchanges that send Cedar Crest College community members abroad and bring to our shores a diverse cadre of individuals. These exchanges would add to our current students’ global experiences here and abroad, increase our international student body, and add to the discourse in our faculty. Our strategic initiatives call for the creation of living-learning communities within our residences that gather students from various fields of study around topics such as Human Rights, Social Justice, and Immigration and link this work to short-term travel abroad and academic courses. The College’s strategic goals will likely include new and expanded academic majors and courses of study that bring international history, world business, literature, arts, and culture to our students.
Cedar Crest graduates will take away a global framework that can be applied both to their profession and more broadly to their community efforts. It is from this vantage point that we boldly proclaim that we intend to reshape the world, one Cedar Crest student at a time. We make this claim because we believe that a women’s college is perfectly positioned to improve the status of women around the world. Indeed, the statistics associated with women worldwide conclude that:
- While women’s participation in the wage labor sector is increasing, they represent half of all wage earners in only 17 countries. There is no country in the world where women’s wages equal that of men.
- Women are the poorest of the poor. More than two-thirds of the one billion people living on less than $1.00 per day are women and children; the majority of these live in rural areas.
- Almost twice as many women as men worldwide are illiterate (600 million women to 320 million men).
- Every minute, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth. This adds up to 1,400 women dying each day and more than 500,000 each year, of which 99 percent are in developing countries.
- Rural women are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of food production in developing countries, but many of these countries prohibit women from acquiring or disposing of land without their husbands’ consent.
- Violence against women cuts across socioeconomic, religious and ethnic groups, as well as geographic areas. Evidence from diverse countries reveals women living in poverty are especially vulnerable to gender-based violence, as are adolescent girls.
- Despite the commitment adopted by governments in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action to set a target of 30 percent of seats for women in national parliaments, ten years later only 21 countries have reached this target. The global average is only 15 percent. 1
Given these staggering statistics, those of us involved in women’s
education and who work for women’s advancement are, in many
respects, training, teaching, and shaping leaders for the sake of
human progress at home and around the world. Through our work,
together, we can continue to change and improve the facts that
define gender worldwide.
Clearly, around the world, where women are limited, development is limited. Where women are not allowed to lead, nations cannot advance. But where women are free to express themselves and are encouraged and allowed to lead, societies are altered for the better. This is the message that helps shape our work as a women’s college; this is the hope that will guide our every effort in creating new leaders.
In February of this year, the Board of Trustees of Cedar Crest College approved a new Mission Statement as follows: Cedar Crest College is a liberal arts college for women dedicated to the education of the next generation of leaders. Cedar Crest College educates the whole student, preparing women for life in a global community.
I believe those two simples sentences are an effective guide for the College I am honored to lead. Our work will ensure that the world will continue to be a different and better place because of Cedar Crest graduates. 1 Women’s Environment and Development Organization, “Data on the Status of Women Worldwide,” May, 2006.