Birth control, abortion, education, employment, health and religion are just a few of the topics that will be addressed at the 2010 Baker Peace Conference on Thursday and Friday.
Carrying the theme "Women's Rights are Human Rights," the conference begins on Thursday with a lecture by human rights activist and author Ayann Hirsi Ali at 7:30 p.m. in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. A book signing will take place after the lecture.
Because of security concerns for the speaker, backpacks will not be permitted in the auditorium. Organizers are asking attendees to arrive to the event early because security personnel will also be checking bags and purses at the door.
On Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Baker University Center, rooms 240-242, the conference will feature three panels that will discuss women's rights, women's reproductive rights, and women's education, employment, and empowerment. Each panel will feature an impressive list of nationally renowned scholars and authors.
Connie Hunter, events coordinator for Ohio University's Contemporary History Institute, said Hirsi Ali was chosen as the keynote speaker because of her ability to make her life experiences relevant to college students.
"We believe she will be able to relate to students by telling them her intriguing story," Hunter said. "She also brings a unique international view on both human and women's rights after living in Africa, Europe and the U.S."
Hirsi Ali became an outspoken critic of Islam's treatment of women after being the victim of genital mutilation as a child while being raised as a devout Muslim in Somalia.
The daughter of a political opponent of the Somali dictatorship, she grew up in exile, moving from Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia then Kenya. In 1992, she fled to the Netherlands to avoid an arranged marriage and experienced firsthand the differences between the treatment of women in liberal, Western society and in tribal, Muslim cultures.
In 2004, Hirsi Ali teamed with Dutch movie director Theo van Gogh to make the short film "Submission," which addressed the oppression of women in conservative Islam cultures. The movie led a radical Muslim to murder van Gogh and leave a death threat for Hirsi Ali pinned to a knife in van Gogh's chest.
Hirsi Ali was named one of TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People" of 2005 and Reader's Digest's European of the Year for 2005. She has written a collection of essays titled "The Caged Virgin" and a best-selling memoir titled "Infidel" in 2007. Her latest memoir, "Nomad" is scheduled to be released in May. She is currently a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C.
Steven Miner, director of the Contemporary History Institute, said he is really looking forward to Friday morning's panel discussion.
"This panel will address whether there is a universal standard for women's rights," Miner said. "It will ask whether human rights means the same thing in all countries, should the tolerance for human rights be different according to the nation or culture and is the idea of human rights possibly just a Western concept?"
The schedule for Friday's panels in Baker University Center 240-242 is:
9:30 - 11:55 a.m.
Panel 1 ? "A Universal Standard for Women's Rights"
Moderator: Sholeh Quinn, University of California at Merced
R. Charli Carpenter - University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Bert Lockwood - University of Cincinnati
Sonya Michel - Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars
Panel 2 ? "Reproductive Rights"
Moderator: Jackie Wolf, Ohio University
Helen Alvare - George Mason University
Michelle Goldberg - Author "The Means of Reproduction"
Leslie Reagan - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Panel 3 ? "Education, Employment, and Empowerment"
Moderator: Katherine Jellison, Ohio University
Jessica Gavora - College Sports Council
Molly Ladd-Taylor - York University, Toronto
Christine Chin - American University
The Contemporary History Institute annually hosts the Baker Peace Conference as a means of exploring how peace can be established and maintained throughout the world. Established in 1984, it is funded by the John and Elizabeth Baker Peace Studies Endowment by the late Ohio University president emeritus and his wife.
For more details about the Baker Peace Conference, click here.