June 18, 2019 | 72° F

#LikeAGirlWeek closes with empowering coffeehouse

Photo by Elizabeth Leoce |

No matter how you identify, it’s truly inspiring to see so many strong, independent young women come together and collectively embrace an event that showcases what being a girl is all about. To demonstrate what being a Douglass woman really means, Henderson Apartments on Douglass campus dedicated the last night of #LikeAGirlWeek to creativity and free expression by hosting an open mic, all-inclusive coffeehouse. Overall, the show brought a great energy out of the crowd and celebrated womanhood. 

A group of three friends that were brought together by the Rutgers Association of Philippine Students (RAPS) opened the show with a musical performance. Jilliane Avila, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, Raphaella Ranjo, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, and Cristina Escusa, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore, performed together for the first time for a crowd of more than 400 people at a RAPS event. From there, they were compelled to believe that success comes from lifting each other up. At the coffeehouse, they harmonized several original songs while Escusa played the guitar. 

To follow up their performance, Avila performed original poetry that conveyed just how vulnerable being a woman is, but also how strong females can be. After, Avila read two particularly powerful poems: one called “This Is How It Starts,” which is about a toxic relationship and “Edu Ku,” which is about embracing your flaws. Through her captivating words and the confidence and passion in her voice, the audience was able to empathize with her inner female strength.

“I fully believe that in this world, especially our generation, we are too scared to embrace our feelings and emotions, and writing poetry is to embrace those fears, whether that be through traumatic experiences or love. It is through those feelings that we are able to repress the negative thoughts in our lives,” Avila said.

Two more poets, Julia Collucci, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, and Sorina Fernandez, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, also shared their feelings through thoughtful words. The two poets touched on sensitive topics like respect in relationships and reflected on what defines a woman in this generation: strength, vulnerability and bouncing back from traumatizing experiences. 

Fatima Farhat, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, had the room in the Henderson Apartments bouncing with throwback tunes and groovy dance moves, and all of the audience members were on their feet. Farhat said seeing the audience support their friends and “sisters” was a unique example of what #LikeAGirlWeek means. 

“Being a Muslim woman, dancing is a way for me to express my emotions, and it makes me feel confident about the body that I’m in. Just because I have a scarf on my head, people assume I don’t live my life. Hearing that makes me change the stereotype of Muslim women. Especially as a female, younger girls come up to me and say I am a role model. I do get hate but knowing that there are people who look up to me, then that proves why I am proud to be a female Muslim in my community,” Farhat said. 

The coffeehouse was full of life, and the students in attendance agreed that it was one of the most judgement-free places they had ever spent time in at Rutgers. After a whole week of empowering events, it was important to reflect on what the mission was. Thanks to the Rutgers Residential Life staff and Heidi Nicklaus, the coordinator of Residence Life for the Douglass Residential College residence halls, for putting together something to remember. 

“‘Like a Girl Week’ is an annual Residence Life programming series that is aimed towards transforming the student experience in providing students an opportunity to celebrate what it means to be 'like a girl' in today’s society. Henderson brought together a variety of identities and experiences. Seeing people cheer each other on is what this week was all about. Female empowerment should be shared with everyone and thanks to these events, it was a success,” Nicklaus said.

Shikha Ranka, a graduate student in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, described the week in a few simple words. 

“This week shows how proud I am to be a woman. A week dedicated to being a girl is so important in this time period. From yoga to brunch to decorating bras and more, all these events made it clear you are not alone and that expressing yourself for who you are is the best journey to take,” Ranka said.

Elizabeth Leoce

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