By Hyma Gollakota ('22)
On March 30, the South Brunswick Commission on Women hosted its annual women’s conference at the high school. It was a 4-hour event that exposed attendees to the words of many influential and powerful women in the community.
After the morning breakfast, visitors shuffled into the auditorium to listen to the award ceremonies and the keynote speech given by social worker Jennifer Kurdyla, MSW, with the Middlesex County Office of Health Services and the Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition of Middlesex County. She told the audience about her experience with her own abusive relationships and her journey to accepting herself. She also talked about her career changes and how she changed her life to help others who faced the same hardships as her.
Ms. Kurdyla again spoke as a panelist at the “Act Like A Lady” workshop in which she talked about gender norms for men and women and how people could avoid falling into these expected behaviors.
Freshman Anika Thakur felt like she could talk to Kurdyla casually as the conversation was smooth and entertaining. The audience was involved and “the speaker was funny and relatable” which made the entire workshop engaging.
Thakur said “The conference was really entertaining and it made me feel empowered because of all the women that came together and became united.”
The next workshop involved professionals from different careers to come in and speak to girls who possibly wanted to pursue those careers. The law session had three practicing lawyers with different backgrounds. They spoke about their experiences as lawyers and how they juggled family, career, and extra curriculars all at once. The women answered the audience's questions about how to get to where they were. The women talked about techniques they used to let off steam when their work was getting stressful.
Freshman Sachi Ailani said “I want to be a lawyer when I grow older and this conference gave me the opportunity to talk to real lawyers in the field and start networking. It was really interesting to listen to the stories of these women and the things they had to go through in order to reach where they are today… it motivated me more.”
The women who spoke exchanged business cards with the attendees which gave them connections and a chance at networking.
After the workshops completed, the women met in the cafeteria for lunch, which gave attendees the chance to talk amongst themselves and to other speakers. They were able to exchange information, take pictures, and converse with all the attendees at the conference.
Secretary of South Brunswick Commission on Women, Mrs. Joyce Mehta, was one of the planners of the conference. She spoke about her goals and the shortcomings of the conference. Mrs. Mehta said she was happy about the career aspect of the conference.
She said “I think the goal was achieved in that we provided different workshops in which people from different backgrounds were able to give information.”
Mrs. Mehta’s only concern was the number of students who registered and didn’t actually attend.
Freshman Ananya Kulkarni said “I found the conference to be really interesting to listen to. I learned a lot of new things about different issues like domestic violence. I definitely learned something new today.”
The conference gave girls the chance to talk to women who could possibly help them out in the future. Ailani stated “One thing that was understood from this conference was that connections are important. I feel more confident now to pursue my dreams.”
The conference made Kulkarni, along with others, “feel like a part of something bigger.”