UMKC’s Women’s Center May Have Exactly What You Need!

Images of Resources offered at the UMKC Women's Center
Images of Resources offered at the UMKC Women’s Center

By: April Brown, Senior, English BA

The University of Kansas City-Missouri is home to a lot of services and organizations that are dedicated to the betterment, enrichment, and support of students and staff on campus, as well as the community members that live and thrive around the school. Among those groups is UMKC’s Women’s Center, located centrally in the quad on campus. Their mission is advocating, educating, and providing  “support services for the advancement of women’s equity on campus and within the community at large.” They’re known on campus for putting on programs such as the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event, which is a mile-long charity walk to show solidarity for victims of sexual violence, or “I Can / We Can – Day of Action” which is an event that urges students to create pieces of art that represent standing against gender-based violence and share the art on campus to spread the ideal of strength and unity to other students and staff members.

This semester I started interning for the Women’s Center as their blog editor and for the first time in my entire college career, I am truly astonished at the lengths a simple service group will go to provide for and reach their community. I am becoming a passionate advocate for the center, and for all the work the student staff and faculty have put in during this pandemic to ensure the center remains as open and as available as possible. Like most of the university, the center has undergone many changes to accommodate the precautions needed to keep safe from the virus. Our office hours have been reduced. Now our physical office is only open from 10:00am-2:00pm Monday through Thursday. Further restrictions have also been implemented, such as the closing down of our in office kitchen, and  the enforcement of a “2 person in office at any given time” rule. Due to these changes, we, like many other offices and organizations, are hindered to an extent. Our staff is unable to work face to face, and we are unable to host as many events as the center usually does in a normal semester. However, not everything has had to change. In fact, there are plenty of services and programs that the staff here at the center has fought hard to keep exactly as they are.

For instance, the Women’s Center has always been a proud safe place for students, and being that we are a women’s center, we have specific accommodations for our students and staff who are female. Such as, we provide free menstrual products and safe sex kits for any student who may want or need one. Though it is a service geared toward women, any student, faculty member, or community member can stop in to our office during open hours and grab what they may need from our free supplies. We also have a lactation room that is private and cool for nursing mothers on campus. There is a mini-fridge in the room to store milk, and though the lactation room has been closed for walk in usage, it can still be reserved for appointments. The room is sanitized before and after usage, so women can use this room with no worries.

We are also still open to the public for the majority of the work day. There is always at least one staff member in office and we are always willing to talk with, listen, or provide for a student who may be in need. Our office is stocked full of brochures, informational pamphlets, and health supplies. We have information about shelters, food pantries, childcare, mental health and more. Whatever the issue a student may be having, the women at the center are dedicated to helping anyone resolve any issues as quickly and as safely as possible.

Also, maybe even most importantly, the Women’s Center is still putting on events to promote and advocate for gender equity within our community. Some have already concluded successfully, such as our “Say Her Name: The Invisibility of Black Women” panel discussion. Over 100 people tuned in for a couple of hours on zoom as we had an open discussion about the lives of black women, and the injustice and inequality they face every day in America. Some other events we have coming up though are the “I Can / We Can – Day of Action” taking place on Thursday October 15th. Though we are unable to open our office up for students to come make their art with us, we will be handing out art supplies and posting our own art on social media to encourage the creation of the I Can, We Can art. Though we cannot be together, doesn’t mean we can’t work together to end gender-based violence. On Thursday October 22nd we are holding another panel discussion on zoom, like the Say Her Name one, in which we will be discussing the prevalent subject of intersectionality. Also throughout all of the month of October we will be doing small, social media based and/or take home art-based programs and self-help tutorials to help boost morale on campus, educate our followers, and keep everyone mentally strong and healthy during this trying time. All of these programs are listed in detail on our Facebook page, and are mostly open to anyone who would like to join!

It took me until my last semester at UMKC to learn about this wonderful service group, and all the services they provide. I wish I had known about them sooner, and been able to partake in and take advantage of the things they do here. As the pandemic threatens to isolate us to an extreme we have never known, it has never been more important to get the information and services we provide out, not just to the student body, but to the community so they know they do not have to face the upcoming semester, or life alone. Visit the Women’s Center office Monday-Thursday, or tune in to our social media pages and take advantage of the community that is still very much out there!