In Fall 2021, the minor in women, gender and sexualities studies (WGSS) was offered for the very first time at Howard University, housed within the Interdisciplinary Studies Department in the College of Arts and Sciences. By Spring 2022, more than 30 students officially declared the WGSS minor with many more having expressed interest in doing so.
The minor introduces students to new concepts, theories, and knowledge systems as well as critical thinking from a gender, feminist, and sexualities perspective. It will also help students identify organizations they can intern with to gain empirical experience.
According to J. Jarpa Dawuni, Esq., PhD, the founding director of the Howard University Center for Women, Gender, and Global Leadership and a co-creator of the minor in women, gender, and sexualities studies, most universities have a women, gender, and sexualities program. Given the history and contributions of Black women to the history of the United States and globally, the absence of a WGSS program at Howard has left a big gap in the efforts of the Black community to address gender issues.
“With the growing number of Black feminist scholars, this minor offers our students the opportunity to connect with and learn the history and lived experiences of Black women from theoretical [and] empirical contexts to prepare them to be gender aware and globally connected to transnational women’s struggles,” Dawuni says. “As a leading HBCU, and one that has produced some of the best Black leaders nationally and internationally, we must prepare our students to be leaders with an expansive understanding of the role of gender as a social construct not only in Black communities domestically, but also globally.”
Dawuni also mentions how diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are becoming more popular across our society. But, she stresses, they cannot be effective if one does not have a foundational understanding of women, gender, and sexualities.
“Gender is central to everything in society,” Dawuni says. “However, it must be understood within the cultural and historical context.”