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International Women's Day 2021

Published: March 8, 2021 Author: By Alaina Bartel, Photos by Ben Siegel, Rich-Joseph Facun, Laura Bilson and Hannah Ruhoff

American journalist Gloria Steinem once said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist, nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

That statement aligns wonderfully with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, celebrated annually on March 8. The theme, Choose to Challenge, reminds participants that a challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change.

As Ohio University celebrates International Women’s Day, and Women’s History Month this March, we ask members of our University community to consider how they will help forge a gender-equal world. This month and every day forward, we encourage our community to celebrate women’s achievements, raise questions against bias and take action for equality.

OHIO recognizes the diversity of women’s experiences and their invaluable contributions to our community, and as such, we wanted to highlight four women who inspire us: Graduate student Habiba Abdelaal; undergraduate student Elizabeth Elrod; staff member Tia Jameson; and alumna Becky Clark.

It’s important to note that these are snapshots of these women’s lives, and these do not necessarily reflect the experiences of others even with similar identities.

Habiba Abdelaal

Portrait of Habiba Abdelaal

Habiba Abdelaal, a graduate student in the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, was born in Cairo, Egypt, and lived with her father and two sisters. At age 19, Abdelaal found herself without a mother and emotionally supporting her sisters and herself.

Habiba Abdelaal talking to a crowd

Habiba Abdelaal speaks at a Womens' Mentorship Program hosted by the OHIO’s Women’s Center, where Abdelaal currently works as a graduate student. 

Habiba Abdelaal walking the bike path by trees

Habiba Abdelaal enjoys a walk on the bike path near Peden Stadium in Athens.

Habiba Abdelaal, a graduate assistant in OHIO’s Women’s Center and a Master of Public Administration candidate in the Voinovich School, was born in Cairo, Egypt, and lived with her father and two sisters. At age 19, Abdelaal found herself without a mother and emotionally supporting her sisters and herself.

“It happened at the same time the revolution started,” she explained. “That’s when I started my social activism work. That part of my life shaped who I am now and helped me develop my resilience and strong personality as a woman and the leader I am now. My passion for community development and advocating for women’s rights stems from recognizing that equitable opportunities are necessary for social change and gender equity.”

Abdelaal has lent her voice to social justice movements here in Athens, speaking previously at Take Back the Night about her involvement in sexual violence prevention during, and following, the Tahrir Square protests. She recently authored an article for The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy documenting the anti-sexual violence movement in Egypt in the 10 years since the Egyptian Revolution.

Abdelaal, who is also a graduate of OHIO’s Center for International Studies communication and development master’s program, is proud to be a resilient woman. She’s faced a lot of hardships at such a young age, including losing her best friend Marwa in 2016.

Abdelaal published a photography project about her mental illness and journey through her post-traumatic stress disorder after losing Marwa. That project was, and still is, close to her heart.

“Her death took away my hope as she was my support system and the one that used to push me through my hard times,” Abdelaal noted. “After Marwa’s death, I started treatment, and I started a recovery journey from anxiety, severe depression, and PTSD. I documented my story because I believe mental illnesses should not be shameful or something that we should hide. I believe that we put more pressure on ourselves to show the good, strong side all that time, and that affects our mental health.”

This International Women’s Day, Abdelaal encourages women to be advocates for each other, and to speak up for the women whose voices may be silenced.

“We must speak kind words to each other and encourage one another when we can,” she added. “We must support each other in our homes and offices, acting as advisors, mentors and friends. Women need to realize that meaningful progress will not be made unless we advocate for each other and support one another.”


Elizabeth Elrod

A student engages in music therapy in a bedroom

Liz Elrod is a music therapy undergraduate student on the Athens Campus. 

Elizabeth Elrod playing a grand piano

School of Music student Liz Elrod rehearses at Glidden Hall. 

Elizabeth Elrod using a computer in a home office

Undergraduate student Liz Elrod co-spearheaded the Portsmouth, Ohio, LGBTQ+ Pride Festival, and she started an LGBTQ+ Adult Support Group through the Portsmouth Welcoming Community. Most of this work is currently being done remotely because of COVID.

Elizabeth Elrod, an undergraduate studying music therapy, grew up in a Baptist, Appalachian household. She was assigned male at birth and grew up living with her mom, dad and brother. Although her father was often absent due to his employment with the U.S. Air Force reserves, their family tried to spend as much time together as possible.

They played board games, watched movies, and went on vacations and getaways, often spending much of their time outside hiking or visiting the beach. Things changed when her family realized she and her brother were queer, and their family relationship became very strained. Elrod said her mother was emotionally manipulative and her father was inattentive and distant.

Elrod’s life experiences led her to become particularly passionate about the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people of all ages. She co-spearheaded the Portsmouth, Ohio, LGBTQ+ Pride Festival, and she started an LGBTQ+ Adult Support Group through the Portsmouth Welcoming Community. The OHIO student has several other accomplishments to be proud of.

“I'm proud of my recovery from meth addiction, for which I celebrated my third year clean at the end of January this year,” she noted. “My goal with this music therapy degree is to help recovering addicts in Appalachia. I'm proud of the work that I have not yet accomplished but will hopefully someday realize through the saving of lives of the addicted and the forgotten in the hollers of Appalachia.”

Elrod is also proud of the work she’s done breaking down binary gender barriers in OHIO’s School of Music through the discourse she’s had with faculty members about creating welcoming communities and ensembles that celebrate people of all genders.  

This International Women’s Day, Elrod believes people should reflect on who the celebration includes.  

“International Women's Day is often a focus about the people in the forefront: cisgender women. This is what International Women's Day is to me currently,” she explained. “International Women's Day should take femininity and celebrate it in all individuals — even those who are masculine. We should work to listen to nonbinary femmes who aren't heard in celebrations such as this. We should listen to the butch lesbians who are forgotten and distrusted because of their masculine attributes. Having a trans* woman such as me as a part of this celebration is a start. I'm Appalachian and proud. I'm a former sex worker and proud. I'm a recovering addict and proud. But we need to shine our light on the dark recesses that no one dares to look. I've been in those dark recesses. There's much work that needs to be done.”

Becky Clark

Portrait of Becky clark with fresh food from Little Fish Brewing Company

OHIO Alumna and Chef Becky Clark runs the kitchen at Little Fish Brewing Co. in Athens. 

Jars being prepared for creating food and drink

Clark is the owner-operator of local businesses Pork & Pickles and Totes Local. 

Becky Clark walking her two dogs after a winter snow

Clark enjoys a walk with her dogs at Sells Park in Athens.

Becky Clark and her family live for adventure. They’re avid hikers, bikers, trail runners, campers and travelers. They also garden and cook, and she and her partner, Chris, recently bought an old ambulance and have been working to convert it into a camper van.

Clark is the owner-operator of local businesses Pork & Pickles and Totes Local, executive chef of Little Fish Brewing Company, and a member of Hocking College Agroecology Program Advisory Board. She’s also a proud Bobcat alumna, having graduated in 2009 with a degree in geography.

The OHIO alumna lives in Athens with her partner and their three fur babies, dogs Porter and Woody and cat Bernie. Her parents, grandparents, and brother’s family all live in the area and they’re extremely close.

No two days are similar for Clark, but they all start out with some coffee and a walk with Porter and Woody. Between calls with her mom and FaceTime chats with her nieces during the week, Clark explores at Sells Park with her dogs, helps her family with errands and projects, catches up on some office work, before going into Pork & Pickles’ production room in Nelsonville or the kitchen at Little Fish Brewing.  

“I am extremely proud of the journey I have been on for the past five years since starting Pork & Pickles,” Clark explained. “I have grown as a leader, as a chef, as a partner, daughter, and friend. I am proud that I have chosen the harder, but more fulfilling path in life. I am also extremely proud that I have finally learned how to strike a work-life balance, and I am now working to live rather than living to work. No matter how much you love your job, you can't let it completely consume your life. I am proud I have learned that lesson.”

Clark loves her job not only for the freedom it brings, but also because she’s able to mentor her staff. Her young employees inspire her.

“This next generation of young women are heading into their careers with conviction, motivation, and a take-no-nonsense attitude,” she said. “These women will lead our world sooner than we know, and I am inspired by them every day. I am in constant awe of this next generation's flexibility and acceptance of all people, and I believe they will make the world a better and more just place to live.”

For Clark, International Women’s Day is a reminder of how far our world has come, and how much work there is still left to do.

Tia Jameson

Outdoor portrait of Tia Jameson

Tia Jameson begins her sixth season as a Director of Operations on the OHIO women’s basketball team in 2020.

Ohio University women's basketball players having a locker room discussion

Tia Jameson mentors basketball players.

Tia Jameson driving in her car

Tia Jameson enjoys music in her car before heading into to work.

Tia Jameson’s family is her rock, her foundation, and her why. Everything she does, she has her family in mind. It’s possible she picked this trait up from her mother.

After Jameson’s father passed away when she was 10 years old, she watched her own mother work tirelessly for 48 years at the same job. She witnessed her mother sit by her kids’ hospital beds countless nights, take care of their home, be a rock for her siblings and her mother, support her children through college, be the best grandmother, and their family’s number one supporter.

“She never complained,” said Jameson, director of operations for OHIO’s Women’s Basketball team. “My mother is awe-inspiring; a true SHERO (she-hero), watching her unwavering strength and endurance grips my emotions. She is pure magic and grace.”

Jameson, a two-time OHIO graduate, has been with the Women’s Basketball team for six years. Her family loves going to games and cheering on the Bobcats, and the rambunctious group enjoys every minute of it.

“It’s important to expose my nieces and nephews to the collegiate experience so they can see obtainable goals for themselves,” Jameson explained. “Whenever we are together, there are gut-busting laughs in the air. My younger nephews are into sports right now, so we always find ourselves in a basketball gym proudly cheering them on.”

If it’s not sports, Jameson’s family — her mother, siblings, aunts, grandmother, and cousins — are together celebrating birthdays and every holiday. If she’s not with her family, working or courtside, and it’s a bright, beautiful day, you’ll probably see her driving around, soaking up some sun and jamming to her favorite tunes.

At OHIO, Jameson is a member of Bobcats Lead Change, and she’s on the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, The Martin Luther King Jr. and Juneteenth Celebration Board, and the Real Talk About Big Questions Programming Board. Though the objectives for each of these groups differ, Jameson is honored to be a part of each, because of their dedication to impacting lives and cultivating growth.   

“I’m so proud of my continued commitment to help others. My goal has always been to assist others to cultivate into their finest self and exceed past what they thought they were capable of,” she explained. “I say ‘continued’ because we don’t always get the ‘thank you’ we deserve, or the pat on the back we worked for — but simply knowing that someone tried harder and trusted you to help is reward enough.”
This International Women’s Day, Jameson encourages everyone to honor the beauty in difference, embrace diversity and uplift each other when sometimes the world doesn’t allow those things to occur.

“Through International Women’s Day we can strive to normalize the beauty in global shades, unfamiliar backgrounds, uncomfortable conversations, and truly appreciate the meaning of blood, sweat, and tears in unity,” she noted. “It is beautiful to see women empowering women.  I encourage us all to aspire to carry this mentality of caring, unity, and empowerment with us in our daily lives.”