Where there is control, there is resistance. And the resistance we are witnessing at this time has never been greater within the women’s movement. On Wednesday, a new wave of marches erupted as millions of people around the world took the streets for International Women’s Day. The day celebrates the achievements of women and revitalizes the call for gender parity, but also condemns the backwards political changes that have recently taken place in the United States and Russia.

The message of these protests could be found echoing in the Erasmus Pavilion as seven prominent women of the university performed the internationally acclaimed documentary play ‘Seven’, based on the real stories of women’s rights activists from Guatemala to Cambodia. The play, featuring staff from the different branches of the university as well as one student, took place before a full house on a rainy International Women’s Day. Though the cast of the play featured no professionals, their powerful performance created a huge demand for tissues within the crowd.

Illuminating The Dark Truth

Six different lamps and one candle representing seven different time frames shed light on each activist as they took turns unraveling their stories. The story of Pakistani activist Mukhtar Mai, delivered by President of the Executive Board Kristel Baele, did especially well in illuminating the dark truth behind gender inequality in some parts of the world. Mai’s story is of an uneducated girl who was gang-raped in a country where this often goes unpunished. Instead of staying silent, Mai becomes one of the first women to take her rapists to justice, and goes on to build schools in Pakistan to educate more women. The narrative was painful to listen to at moments, but worked in showing everyone that even those in the most mortifying of situations can resist and take action.

‘We need to talk’

“Being part of this experience, one thing I realized is that this problem is less of a women’s story to me, but rather a human’s story that we can all connect to on some level,” said Assistant Professor Vidhi Chaudhri, who acted as Russian activist in the play. “Gender inequality is a responsibility that both men and women share, and we need to talk about it not just at moments like this.”

‘Seven’ 3 foto Mazur
Student Jara Verkleij speelde met veel verve een politicus uit Guatemala.

The Aftermath

The resounding standing ovation that met the seven women as they spoke their final words was by no means a case of happy activism. From the open-mic discussion that followed the play, it was clear that the actors had successfully shaped a new perspective on gender inequality.

“The first time I read the script I had goosebumps, like I have right now, because when you read stories like this you know that it’s possible to change lives, actual lives!” said the lone student in the cast Jara Verkleij, who played Guatemalan politician Annabella De Leon. “This wasn’t about being a victim or that women are inferior. It’s about finding your power to change things, and I think that’s very rewarding.”