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Spelman Cultural Exchange Program

Summer Study Travel Reflections

Spelman Intercultural Engagement Program in Portugal

Spelman College, the global leader in the education of women of African descent, and an institution dedicated to excellence in the liberal arts and sciences, has partnered with CIEE, to provide students with an opportunity to participate in two-week intensive programs in various countries around the world.

Students, Faculty Featured in Live Broadcast at Portuguese Parliament

Spelman Students Travel to PortugalDuring a recent visit to Lisbon, Portugal, 30 Spelman students and two faculty members engaged in a discussion on equality and freedom during a live broadcast from the Portuguese Parliament.

During the May 23 talk, members of Portugal’s Commission on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms, & Guaranties’ Sub-commission for Equality and Non-discrimination discussed their work, and then took questions from Spelman students.

“We all noticed that while their work focused heavily on women, the LGBTQQ community, the blind and the handicapped, race and racism were topics which were left out, and even not addressed when several Spelman students asked questions related to the Afro-Portuguese community,” said Soraya Mekerta, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of World Languages and Literature, who introduced the Spelman group.

Students said they gained insight into Portugal’s political system and issues of racial and gender inequality.

“Our meeting at the Parliament showed me how tirelessly we must fight not only for gender equality but also for equality on the basis of race,” said Anitras White, C’2019, a dual-degree engineering and biology major. Spelman, in partnership with CIEE (the Council on International Educational Exchange), offers the two-week intercultural exchange program to Portugal each year in May. International studies lecturer Alix Pierre, Ph.D., also joined the students on the trip.

Spelman Students Reflect on CIEE Experience

Reagan Fresnel |  Political Science
The trip to the Parliament was insightful and inspiring. We learned about the system of government in Portugal, and met with a dynamic group of women political leaders. 

Shawna Howard | Comparative Women Studies/Public Health
Visiting Portugal’s parliament and speaking with members of the Sub-commission for Equality and Non-discrimination put a global perspective on the way I view issues regarding race, gender and disability, especially as they relate to people of the African Diaspora.

Kennedy Key | History & Pre-Med Track
Parliament was really beautiful. Some of the rooms reminded me of the United States White House. I really enjoyed talking to the members of the sub-committee. They were especially transparent, allowing us to ask any question we had about gender/women’s rights.

I also enjoyed the fact that although these women came from different political parties, they unanimously agreed that women’ rights is still an issue and worked tirelessly as a group to develop more equitable lives for women in and outside the government.

Alesha Minott | Biology
Visiting the National Parliament in Portugal carried a powerful take-home message for me. In the meeting, we discussed human rights, women’s marginalization, and issues Afro-Portuguese people face. Many of my Spelman sisters asked questions on how Afro-Portuguese women are discriminated against and what the commission does to make a change.

These particular questions went unanswered and were basically ignored. I feel as if Portuguese people ignore the issue of race and refuse to talk about it.  I also feel they were beating around the bush about issues of importance to Afro-Portuguese people. Perhaps they did not want to discuss these issues because the event was broadcast on channel two, and they believed discussing such issues might reflect poorly on them.

Shelby Laurel Mumford | English/French

I enjoyed our trip to Parliament because the CIEE program understood what we, as Spelman students, would be interested in. While not all of our questions were answered, I gained insight into the working of the political system in Portugal. Their issues (especially inequality), are not much different from our own problems in America.

Langley Randall | Economics
Being able to speak with members of the parliament was a great experience and really helped me better understand the Portuguese government.

Danielle Robinson | Economics/Spanish
Meeting with the members of the sub-committee allowed us to explore the pressing issues that affect women and minorities in Portugal. As Spelman students, it was refreshing to apply what we have learned in the classroom to the experience and ask Portuguese leaders about the intersectional issues citizens face.

Kaitlyn Swain | Biology/Pre-Med
Going to the Parliament and meeting the members of the Sub-commission on Equality and Non-Discrimination was a very privileged experience that was truly unforgettable. My favorite room was the “politically incorrect” room that displayed the realness behind Portugal’s history and the Portuguese’s significant involvement in the slave-trade.”

Anitras White | Dual degree Engineering/Biology
Our meeting at the Parliament showed me how tirelessly we must fight not only for gender equality but also for equality on the basis of race.

Zaahira Wilson | International Studies
During the meeting at the National Parliament in Portugal, I felt very under-represented. The comments of the president of the sub-commission revealed that she has little to no knowledge about Afro-descended people in Portugal. Several of my peers repeatedly asked questions about issues pertaining to Afro-Portuguese. Unfortunately, none of these questions were fully answered. From this experience, I realize that as African-descended people, we have to fight for each other, for people of color all over the world so that we can tell our own stories.