Students, professors and administrators used theater, dance and spoken word performances in the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom to celebrate the achievements of GW women at the first annual Phenomenal Women Awards Ceremony.
“These women are not just the students and the faculty, but the employees of the university who contribute to life at GW,” said sophomore Jordan Chisolm, who presented the Phenomenal Female Employee Award to Cynthia Kelly, a worker at Ross Café, as part of Women’s History Month.
Sophomore Gylise Harrison said the women that help make GW feel like home are the ones who smile on the Vern Express when you are stuck in traffic and the workers in Ames and Pita Pit who don’t charge for extra chicken.
Senior Christina Mauricio explained what qualities constitute a phenomenal woman.
“A phenomenal woman is independent, intelligent, self-assured, has good integrity, and is a role model to other women,” Mauricio said. “She thrives in what is often described as a male-dominated world.”
Although the event aimed to uplift women, the ceremony also honored some of the men at GW.
“While we want to uplift these women on the GW campus, we also feel it is our duty to uplift the phenomenal men which we encounter on (the) GW campus,” said freshman Benson Mensah-Bonsu, the brother of GW basketball legend Pops Mensah-Bonsu.
The award for “Phenomenal Man” went to Student Association Sen. OG Oyiborhoro (CCAS-U), who said the recognition was an honor.
“I really appreciate it, I’m really humbled,” said Oyiborhoro, a junior. “Much too often, women go unseen and unrecognized at the University and this is a really exceptional award show.”
Although the event was a celebration, it also dealt with difficult issues that affect women. One of the student performances, a monologue by junior Johanna Leonidas, focused on the struggles of women who have breast cancer.
“What are these assets that society says defines a woman?” said Leonidas during her performance. “Are these things really me? What are these things?”
Emma Thelusme, member of the Phenomenal Women committee, said funds raised by the ceremony would be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
“For us women, the battle . is not as socially defined as it was in the past,” she said. “Now it is a physical battle. It affects more women than men. Why? I don’t know. It’s just something else that tests our strength as women.”
The idea of a ceremony celebrating the contributions of women was the brainchild of sophomore Catina Dailey, founding member of the Phenomenal Women Committee.
“I was just working, thinking about Women’s History Month and I told my friend, I think we should have an award ceremony,” Dailey said.
But since Phenomenal Women was not an actual student organization at the time, they could not rent the Marvin Center Grand Ballroom without the sponsorship of other organizations. In response to the support for this ceremony, Dailey decided to take action.
She said, “I made (Phenomenal Women of GW) an official (organization) last week.”