Editor's note: Cassie Coughlan is a member of a Better World for Women. 

Last year, the Better World for Women club was little more than a fragment, a concept of a project evolving in the mind of current senior Diksha Kataria. 

Kataria's experience growing up in New Delhi, India, where she said women continue to be marginalized, convinced her of the importance of education, financial empowerment and liberation for women in all walks of life. 

With five members, this past year the club planned a single, albeit successful event -- a screening of "Girl Rising," a film that weaves together the personal narratives of nine girls in developing countries. With the proceeds from the event, the club funded the education of nine girls in India. 

Now, the club’s membership has doubled to about a dozen members, who are hard at work on the opportunities planned this semester. 

Members said they were drawn to the club by its focus on a particular cause, one that could be narrowly and tangibly addressed. 

“I really wanted to join a club where my actions could have concrete effects on other people, and it was really important for me for those people to be women, especially those across the world who are underrepresented and don’t have the opportunities that we are able to have here,” first-year Corinne Joss said. 

Because the Better World for Women club has grown in repute and increased its publicity efforts, it attracted several underclassmen, including Joss, to join in its efforts. With an increase in membership came new organizational structure, as the club formed financial, marketing, outreach, projects and events teams. 

“The club has grown a lot in just one year," said senior Cate Donovan, the external outreach director for the club and one of its founding members. "It's amazing. We had one event last year, and I feel like one of my biggest jobs with that was just spreading the word and communicating the event to as many people as possible. So I figured [the outreach team] might be a good job for me!”

This year, through dividing and conquering, the club has expanded its breadth of opportunities for student involvement. 

“This semester, we have a lot of exciting things lined up," Kataria said. "The overarching issue that we’re focusing on is human trafficking. So our events team is planning a fundraiser for this organization called Free the Girls that collects bras, and then it sends those bras abroad to I think countries like Uganda, El Salvador to women who have been rescued from sex trafficking to sell and be incorporated into the communities and be economically empowered.” 

The club is always looking for interested students, Kataria said, and students can get involved by participating in fundraisers, spreading the word, attending meetings and serving on committees. 

As part of its plan for the semester, the club is also partnering with Love Your Neighbor, an organization in Thailand that combats modern-day slavery in the northern Isan region. 

“The area in which the organization exists is highly prone to sex trafficking," Kataria said. "It’s very underprivileged, so we’re working with this organization -- it’s a small, grassroots organization. They do a lot of work for their community … [However,] they’re very small and they have very little funding.”

By working alongside the organization to create a video project and social media pages as part of a larger advertising campaign, Better World for Women hopes to inspire awareness of the breadth of the sex trafficking epidemic in Thailand and showcase Love Your Neighbor's work in chipping away at this issue.

By partaking in the mission of the Better World for Women club, members said they gained a sense of affecting real change.

“I feel like the club has opened my eyes to the way women are so important to society," Donovan said. "Empowering women means empowering the entire society. It’s just something that I bring, going into courses. [Looking at] women’s roles in this … How could we improve that … women’s roles in this community.”

Members said they carried their experience with a social justice organization into classrooms and offices, and it colored the lens through which they viewed the world. 

“Little steps are still steps toward the big picture of creating a better world for women," Joss said. "Just spreading awareness about small or large injustices against women that not everyone sees daily [is important], whether it’s in the workforce or in the classroom or human trafficking in our country or in other countries.” 

Contact features writer Cassie Coughlan at cassie.coughlan@richmond.edu. 

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