In the coming months, students interested in female empowerment will have the opportunity to join the International Movement for Resilience, Authenticity, and Activism (IMRAA): A Coalition of Women for Women. This is a new activist organization at the College of William and Mary. IMRAA aims to provide female students with an inclusive environment that fosters holistic self-growth, community service and intersectional engagement.
IMRAA’s founders, Amna Baloul ‘20, Dena Bashri ‘20, Kayla Gibbs ‘20 and Kelsey Vita ‘20, are interested in developing a community that rises above conventional narratives of religious, racial and partisan backgrounds. Their organization seeks to unite female students on the basis of their shared experiences while providing them with a forum for expression and discussion. Through these discussions, female students will equip themselves with the tools necessary to develop their most authentic selves.
IMRAA will reflect its mission of existing as an inclusive female empowerment group which transcends religion, race, ethnicity, and political views to unite and connect on the basis of being females in this society who feel moved to empower one another.
“IMRAA will reflect its mission of existing as an inclusive female empowerment group which transcends religion, race, ethnicity, and political views to unite and connect on the basis of being females in this society who feel moved to empower one another,” Baloul said in an email.
IMRAA is also founded on the belief that empowerment and mindfulness are intrinsically linked, and as such, the organization aims to reduce academic and personal stress among potential members. Noting that women often repress the universal struggles encountered in both their private and public lives, IMRAA strives to become an environment where female students can combat burdensome conflicts through spiritual and mental reflection.
IMRAA’s founders maintain that genuine empowerment can only be accomplished by advocating on behalf of mental health and mindfulness, which the organization aims to promote through various workshops.
“IMRAA will provide tangible outcomes and methods of promoting improved mental health, such as journaling techniques, positive affirmations, vision boarding and more,” Baloul said. “The IMRAA co-founders believe that there is a high value and benefit in following up discussions regarding prevalent issues with effective strategies and methods to mitigate these shared difficulties.”
IMRAA’s establishment at the College is emblematic of a broader pattern of female activism and engagement occurring throughout the United States, particularly in political spheres.
“In the media, we can see that 2018 has been a year of women seeking to empower themselves and their communities,” Vita said in an email. “More than twice as many women are running for Congress this year than in the past election cycle. Women are standing up against sexual harassment and assault in record numbers. At [the College] specifically, we see a step: having our first female president. However, there is significant progress to be made, both for all women and for mental wellness. 2018 has also highlighted the need for serious conversations on mental health, another key focus of IMRAA.”
Among IMRAA’s planned initiatives for the upcoming academic year are Sisters Discuss seminars, which the organization’s founders describe as student-led discussions where members will engage in conversations about the universal struggles encountered by women of all backgrounds. IMRAA also hopes to introduce guest speakers to these discussions to foster collaboration with a broader community of like-minded women. These sessions will ensure that a wide range of female perspectives are heard on campus.
“The Sisters Discuss experience will be particularly special since it will produce tangible practices students can use to enhance their quality of life and state of mind,” Baloul said.
The prioritization of mental health and mindfulness are among IMRAA’s unique approaches toward female empowerment, and the organization’s planned initiatives aim to complement, rather than compete with, existing services on campus. IMRAA’s founders expressed their desire to host an organization-sponsored mindfulness retreat where interested students will be able to spend time away from campus to improve their personal, scholastic and professional well-being.
IMRAA will organize a mindfulness retreat for any members who would like to attend in order to further renew their energy and develop a more peaceful state of mind.
“IMRAA will organize a mindfulness retreat for any members who would like to attend in order to further renew their energy and develop a more peaceful state of mind,” Baloul said.
While new to the College, IMRAA will be part of a growing global network of organizations devoted to similar approaches toward female empowerment. Seeking recognition from the College as an established organization may take months, but IMRAA aims to begin serving the community by the end of the fall semester. By late August, IMRAA had approximately one hundred students on its mailing list and the founders hope to add to that tally in the coming semester.
“We’re in the process of becoming a recognized student organization and have been in contact with the Student Leadership Development staff,” Baloul said.