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Serving the GW Community since 1904

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Diversity, equity official to leave GW in July
By Jenna Lee, Assistant News Editor • June 8, 2024

GW UNICEF festival raises awareness of child labor

Web Extra

GW UNICEF fused food with fashion, dance and philanthropy to raise awareness about child labor around the world during their third annual International Festival, held Tuesday night in the Marvin Center Continental Ballroom.

As a college chapter of the United Nations Children’s Fund, GW UNICEF works with the GW community on issues and needs facing children around the world. The International Festival is their flagship fundraising event and brings attention to a particular cause each year.

Helen Cannaday Saluny, associate vice president of Student Academic Support Services, outlined in a speech at the event ways in which all members of the GW community could contribute to the cause.

“Whatever role you play, we have a responsibility to protect and promote that which is the best welfare of our children,” she said. “This could be the simple act of checking in with your siblings and being there for them, or volunteering with your campus or home communities or being part of a great organization like GW UNICEF.”

In accordance with this year’s theme of child labor, the student organization partnered with RugMark, a global non-profit organization that works to abolish child labor in the carpeting industry, to put together the festival.

RugMark sends inspectors to carpet manufacturers throughout the world to aid working children, providing them with educational and professional support that can help them earn a living. Rugs bearing the RugMark label denote the manufacturer neither employed nor threatened children during any process of the rug’s creation.

The GW UNICEF executive board members began the program by reading stories of children afflicted by child labor, but whom RugMark has saved. Many of the profiles were of children younger than ten who had been forced into slave labor by way of corrupt government or sold into labor to repay their families’ debts.

Sizwe Mankazana, vice president of education for GW UNICEF, expressed the relevance of these issues to GW students as members of the D.C. community.

“I think it’s important for GW kids to realize that UNICEF and the issues that UNICEF tries to address affect the world, affect Africa, affect Asia, but also affect our own neighborhood,” said Mankazana, a junior.

The festival featured fashion shows that highlighted cultural dress from different regions of the world. Student models filled the runway with fringed bustiers from the Caribbean, embroidered wraps from the Middle East, silk blouses from East Asia and modern Harajuku styles from Japan with short skirts, wigs and flashy make-up.

The Philippine Cultural Society provided further entertainment by performing the Tinikling, a traditional Filipino dance involving bamboo sticks to keep the beat.

Ashley Dembey, sophomore, who emceed and helped organize the event, said the festival’s range of cultural elements were intended to showcase diversity.

“There’s diversity in clothing, there’s diversity in foods, diversity in people,” she explained. “And we want people to see that it’s not just one group helping, it’s the whole community.

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