Editor's Note — This Q&A is part of a weekly student conversation series that is celebrating Women's History Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and look to maintain that momentum in future careers. Learn more about Women's History Month coverage in Nebraska Today.
This week, meet Venn Jemkur, a Master of Arts in apparel design major with a minor in women's and gender studies. Through her research, she examines the marginalization of large female bodies by the fashion industry and works to promote female empowerment.
Talk about presenting to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
The title of our talk was "Fashion Forward: A Roadmap for Gender Equality, Empowerment of Women and Fashion Identity." It was a Zoom presentation, and we were glad to offer as well as learn different perspectives on how fashion education can lead to an economic impact on women.
The UN Commission on the Status of Women meets annually usually at this time of the year in New York. The participants of the event(s) are people appointed through governmental channels. Alongside the UN CSW meeting, also on an annual basis, is a 2-week series of events and meetings for Civil Organizations, NGOs, Foundations, etc. who work in the space of gender empowerment, women’s rights, etc. This event is called NGO CSW 65.
The presentation we gave took place in one of the approved events of the NGO CSW 65 Forum. The organizational sponsor is the Miss Caricom International Foundation, which primarily works in Africa but also has projects elsewhere globally.
How can fashion promote empowerment/gender equality?
Fashion education is part of a broader goal of developing local fashion industries that support women’s leadership, economic autonomy, and prosperity. This in turn supports the same for their communities. Fostering a local fashion industry should necessarily promote traditional craftsmanship and thus also empower local artisans in textile and garment-related crafts. Often, but not always, these artisans are women. Developing the local industry promotes cultural heritage, raises the status of traditional craft practices as valued and important aspects of ethnic, regional, and national identities. Women artisans, tailors and embroiderers can take charge of their future. Women’s financial empowerment balances the power dynamics of the household, it makes their voices heard and gives them the opportunity to make decisions for the family.
How have you gotten involved on campus to promote women empowerment or something else you’re passionate about?
My Master of Arts project focuses on the marginalization of large female bodies by the fashion industry. My project focuses on the sizing and design lapses in the plus-size market. It discusses the century-long body size bias of the fashion industry and it advocates for a fundamental change in the practice of fashion through a trickle-up effect that can be achieved in fashion colleges and institutions.
I am involved in different communities on campus that help in meeting the different needs of all students regardless of gender. I am currently the academic affairs chair of the Graduate Student Assembly; I also represent the graduate students in the university's Student Health Insurance Committee. I also represent graduate students on the Library Committee. I am passionate about giving a voice to those that cannot speak for themselves.
What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
I hope to be a successful educator and I would like to proceed to Ph.D. here at Nebraska. I like my lecturers and I think there is a great deal I can learn from them that will get me set for the future. My dream is to effect change in the world through my research.
What or who inspires/motivates you?
I am from Nigeria, Africa. My state is Plateau state, and the capital is Jos. There are lots of times when I think or feel I can’t go on anymore in school. When that happens, I think of my dad and my mum. They are so supportive of my ambitions; they encourage me to fly. When I think about my sisters and brothers back home, all I see is cheers for me to succeed. My family motivates me. I am grateful to have a legion supporting me always.
I am also inspired to be an educator because of my parents’ educational background. My dad is a professor of archeology for more than 24 years now. My mum, on the other hand, is a registered nurse and counselor at the University of Jos.
What is your advice to others looking to make an impact?
I advise they believe in themselves and be determined to succeed. If they do not have a support system, search for people with like minds; there are helpers everywhere. You need to seek them out. Always think big, you can only make an impact if your ideas are useful and relevant to your community.