Maria Rita Nahum

First international GOLD speaker discusses mental and emotional well-being of women

Sep 30, 2021
Kathryne Davis

The Women’s College of Brenau University, in collaboration with Brenau’s Office of International Strategy and Partnerships, welcomed Argentinian journalist and nonprofit activist Maria Rita Nahum on Thursday, Sept. 30, as the first featured international leader in the GOLD Speaker Series.

Addressing the Brenau community and guests from eight countries in her native Spanish — which was translated live by her brother, Omar — Nahum discussed the mental and emotional well-being of women and how men and women can work together for equality.

Nahum, a former journalism professor and current producer and host of popular television and radio programs, started off her speech with an activity to help show the audience that people have to try to see beyond themselves in order to help others. She had the audience put their hand in front of their face and envision every expectation for the day written on it.

“What can we see beyond our hand and our own expectations?” she asked. “Nothing, right? Now, let us put down our hands and let us look at each other and be as present as possible. The idea is to be able to see from where I am speaking.”

Nahum continued by saying although men and women are different, each side needs to see where the other is coming from in order to make changes to be more inclusive.

For that change to happen, Nahum said that we have to see outside of our own obstructions.

“We need to see ourselves with different eyes, speak with a different language and listen with different leaders,” she said. “I have told people many times that they need to rethink and reinterpret words.”

Nahum’s work on the board of Casa de la Mujer, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating gender violence, has helped thousands of women and garnered national acclaim. She was awarded the Woman Leader for the Building of Values and Peace in 2016 for her contributions to gender equality. In addition, she serves as a consultant for Argentina’s National Institute of Statistics and Census and the National Secretariat of Communications Professionals.

“Beyond all of that expertise, I see Maria Rita as a community leader,” said Rosi Ponce, executive director of international strategy and partnerships at Brenau. “She has dedicated her life to promoting well-being. She has, through her sensitivity and empathy, touched the lives of thousands. Through her profound humanity, I am at a very personal level, extremely proud that she is our first international GOLD series speaker.”

Nahum said that she hopes men and women will feel inspired to come together as equals so that inclusion will come naturally.

“So if we can do this at a very early age, instead of speaking about inclusion, we will be allowed to exist,” Nahum said. “This is the moment when men and women together can create many things in this new world.”

In addition to Nahum’s speech, opening remarks by Brenau President Anne Skleder, Ponce and Dean of The Women’s College Debra Dobkins were also conducted in Spanish and English, with Anne Wesserling, assistant professor of Spanish, translating for Dobkins.

Valentina Pabon, senior marketing and operations management major from Colombia, told the audience about how much Brenau has helped her change with all of the opportunities available. One of her goals is to learn five languages by the time she turns 25, which is being made possible by her time at Brenau.

“From the first day that I arrived, Brenau has helped me and shaped me into the person that I am,” Pabon said. “Through this university, which I call home, I have had the opportunity to expand my knowledge and be immersed in a culture which is so different from my country. This has allowed me to open my mind, meet people from all over the world with different experiences and cultures, and also learn about the obstacles that international students will face.

“Last summer, I had the opportunity to go to France to study and get to know that amazing culture through a scholarship that Brenau offers. With these and many other opportunities, I’m able to recognize that Brenau is interested and willing to support its students to achieve their dreams.”

The GOLD Speaker Series, featuring highly accomplished and trailblazing women, is an ongoing component of The Women’s College’s GOLD Program. In its current “L” year, the program is focusing on leadership. This follows the “G” year dedicated to gender awareness and the “O” year, which was about ownership of personal responsibility and challenged students to participate in the democratic process. The ensuing “D” year will focus on diversity.

“The best leaders find joy in doing, mentoring, serving, leading and following,” Dobkins said. “Brenau has produced capable, compassionate leaders for over 143 years, and we are poised to do just that for the next 143 years and beyond.”

With Brenau’s numerous international students and partnerships with the Panamanian financial aid agency and Anhui Normal University in China, Skleder has high praises for all of the work that has been done to help make the university more inclusive.

“I am very proud that we are committed to globalization, diversity and belonging,” Skleder said. “And our latest GOLD Speaker series event is a wonderful example of that.”