Loyola Hosts Inaugural International Women’s Day Event


Anna Hummel

Dean Landrieu (left), Negina Khalili (middle), and Lesli Harris (right) speak on stage at the International Women’s Day event. International Women’s Day is a globally recognized event.

Anna Hummel, Assistant Photo Editor

Loyola University hosted the inaugural International Women’s Day event in coordination with the Women’s Leadership Academy and Women’s Resource Center, and focused on a call to action for accelerating gender parity in all spaces.
The event on March 8 featured three keynote speakers: councilmember Lesli Harris, former Afghani prosecutor and visiting professor Negina Khalili, and Dean of the College of Law Madeleine Landrieu.

Harris was the second Black woman to become partner at her law firm in New Orleans and later served as Chief of Staff to Loyola University’s first woman president. She discussed her work as a Black female attorney in a predominantly white male space, her fight for equal justice, and most recently her achievements for women as a member of the New Orleans City Council.

Harris said millions of people have fallen victim to poor services and she’s been on a mission to make meaningful reforms for New Orleanians. Since she’s been in office, Harris has spearheaded a number of campaigns: fighting for affordable housing, early childhood education, greater mental health services, and getting licensed nurses to do home visits after childbirth. Last year, Harris sponsored a city ordinance that forced NOPD to process its own rape kits.

Harris said she’s not done yet. Harris told the audience at the event that she will be partnering with Loyola to create a young women’s leadership academy.

Landrieu, a Loyola alum and former trial and appellate court judge, served as a moderator for Khalili. Landrieu is only the third woman to serve as the Dean of Loyola’s law school and has spent most of her career fighting for justice and on behalf of those who don’t have a voice.

Khalili, an expert in gender and the rights of women and girls, and a former prosecutor in Afghanistan, recently moved to the United States from her native Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the government in August of 2021. She told the audience that Loyola’s law school was the first to take her in after the fall of Kabul.

Out of an abundance of caution, Loyola was unable to stay in contact with Khalili while she made her escape out of Afghanistan. Once she arrived in the U.S., she stayed with Landrieu who had been by her side to shepherd her when she could.

Khalili said it was hard to grow up in a country that valued boys more than girls, struggling to get university education and fearing she may end up like many other women who get locked down in their houses.

During the twenty years the United States government occupied Afghanistan, they brought peace of mind and education to millions of girls, she said. While Khalili said the United States didn’t solve every problem as she still lived with a lot of fear, things did get better.

After receiving her law degree and spending some time in the United States, Khalili said she wanted to fight for justice and equality.

“I decided to be the voice for the people and for women,” she told the audience.

Khalili went on to prosecute cases of violence against women, something she said was unusual for prosecutors in her office.

She received threats from people all across her country saying a woman shouldn’t be a lawyer, and angered people because she stood up for women rights in a court of law.

It wasn’t easy. Khalili said the men she prosecuted are powerful and evil and most of them were let go from prison under the recent Taliban control – leaving her vulnerable and unable to stay in Afghanistan.

Children and adults from all over the city came to Loyola to listen to the speakers and attend the event. Even girl scouts participated, serving cookies and handing out flowers to each woman.

The university indicated it will continue to host International Women’s Day events to commemorate the achievements of women across the world and raise awareness about issues facing women at their second event day next year.