Bandana Project raises awareness of sexual assault as part of Women’s Empowerment Week

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Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority Inc. hosted the Bandana Project this past Tuesday and Thursday to raise awareness for the sexual exploitation of farm-worker women.

The Bandana Project was centered around a table in Upper Court, where bandanas were sold to raise money for Turning Point, a local domestic violence shelter. These bandanas were decorated by the buyer and are to be worn on April 3 to raise awareness for the sexual assault of farm-workers.

Priya Chokshi, ’16, a member of LTA and a leader of the event, said farm-worker women wear bandanas to cover their faces and hide that they are women. They do this to prevent sexual assault in the fields that they work in.

While the bandana represents a specific instance of gender violence, it is also meant to represent the issue on sexual assault in general.

“We want to highlight the very real problem of sexual assault against women, especially in a community that is generally invisible, such as undocumented immigrant women,” Chokshi said.

LTA has hosted the Bandana Project biannually for three years. This year, it is part of Women’s Empowerment Week, an overarching event on Lehigh’s campus.

Women’s Empowerment Week was supervised by Sara Sullivan, ‘14, the vice president of campus relations for the Panhellenic executive board. Aside from the Women’s Center, the Panhellenic Council was also a major sponsor of the Bandana Project.

“I think this event is quite important to both the Greek community and Lehigh’s campus as a whole,” Sullivan said in an email. “Gender violence is very prevalent on Lehigh’s campus, and I am a firm believer in raising awareness for issues such as sexual assault.”

While Sullivan was responsible for overseeing Women’s Empowerment Week, numerous organizations worked together to make the week’s events possible. LTA’s Bandana Project was aided by Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. The fraternity sponsored the event financially and provided volunteers.

“We thought this was a pretty cool and pretty appropriate right now, especially with some of the issues that have been going on with Greek life,” said Brendan McCullagh, ‘16, a member of Pi Kappa Alpha.  “I hope fraternity men will understand the importance of advocating for women’s rights in general and what goes on at Lehigh.”

Sullivan said that one one of the main goals of Women’s Empowerment Week is to foster an inclusive Lehigh community, so Pi Kappa Alpha’s help was welcomed.

“I think it’s especially great that PIKE, a fraternity, is willing to help co-sponsor the event in order to see it succeed,” Sullivan said.

Students responded well to the Bandana Project, and as a result Pi Kappa Alpha and LTA were able to sell a large number of bandanas in a short amount of time

“We’ve already had 60 pre-orders of bandanas, and we only have 300 in total and we’ve been selling pretty much the entire day,” McCullagh said.

Students who purchased bandanas are asked to wear them on April 3 as a symbol of their solidarity with farm-worker women and women in general. Students can purchase bandanas on Tuesday and Wednesday  from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m in Upper Court.

“Though on a small scale, the event is tackling issues of sexual assault of farmworkers, there is a much larger issue addressed,” Sullivan said. “I hope that when someone sees a student with a bandana tied to their backpack on April 3, they’ll be reminded of the importance of this event, and how it affects our community.”

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