Michigan State University held its 23rd annual Dia de la Mujer Conference at the Kellogg Conference Center in East Lansing on Saturday, April 9, 2016. The theme for this year’s conference was “Solidarity for Change: Using our Voice to Inspire Action,” and the keynote speaker was Christine Chavez, the granddaughter of late, labor activist César Chávez. The goals for the conference, which first began in 1994, are to “empower, motivate, inspire, connect and support Latinas and all women in their quest for advancement in society.” The conference included guest speakers, workshops, exhibitors, and vendors.
The Julian Samora Research Institute led two workshops during the day. The first workshop titled “Beyond Hate and Fear: Immigration and the Refugee Crisis in America” was led by Director Rubén Martinez, who argued that the U.S. has some responsibility for the migration of Central Americans to this country through its trade agreements.
Dr. Pilar Horner and student Claudia Zavala screened the movie “No Más Bebés,” a documentary film which exposed the forced sterilization of Mexican immigrant women in Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The film used interviews, court documents, newspapers, and medical records to uncover the shocking practices of tubal ligation among women who often were recent immigrants and did not speak fluent English. Often the women were coerced into signing permission forms for sterilization during labor without full informed consent of the implications of the surgery. After the screening Dr. Horner opened the discussion up to viewers. The heated interactive discussion addressed current issues of the contentious immigration debate, women’s reproductive rights, race and gender discourses, and racist aspects that still permeate much of our social structures including laws, policies, and medical practices.