Skip to main content

iEmphasize: An Eye-Opening Experience

There are many Belle events that are lighthearted and fun. And then there are others that enable you to confront some of the grave injustices in our world. And I think it's critical that any service organization have both. That's why I am so grateful that one of the Women's Leadership events offered this Spring was a visit to the iEmpathize exhibit on the horrific realities of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, particularly of young women and girls. Although it was conveniently located on campus, stepping into the exhibit felt like I was stepping into another world.

The iEmpathize exhibit was really heavy, and was a lot to take in. I felt like, for the time I was there, I stepped out of my own bubble of worries and stepped into a much deeper problem. As the exhibit puts it, I truly empathized by stepping into another person's suffering. And there was so much suffering. I am familiar with trafficking, however, for some reason the combination of videos, photos and artifacts made everything so real to me. Hearing the stories of Cambodian, Eastern European, Mexican and American girls who were orphaned, trafficked, impoverished and brutally beaten made me physically sick and was incredibly disturbing. It just makes me think: "how can a human being or human beings create structures that so dehumanize and humiliate other humans, especially children?!" And what gives them the right to do that to another human being, to a child who knows nothing and looks up to adults as figures who will protect her? Only to have them sell her, beat her, abuse her, traffic her. I especially felt for the plight of Eastern European orphans who have no mother or father or family to protect them. And they're so young. The story of the Cambodian mother who tried to sell oral sex from her 6 year old daughter to the workers was among one of the more disturbing stories, as well as the woman who was beaten for 7 hours when she refused to be trafficked. How do you even live through that, and how do you find the hope to continue living when you've been so brutally abused and seen as trash?

Being exposed to all of that information, part of me felt like running and hiding from the awful world. Yet another part of me felt hope, looking at the work iEmpathize and countless others are doing to combat this. This is a movement that is much greater than myself, and I owe it to these human beings who are experiencing compensated rape to do something, anything. I guess it starts with awareness, and I also took pamphlets at the end on resources. It also made me feel so overwhelmingly grateful that I didn't know what to do...grateful for parents who love me and care, grateful for my home, my opportunities, my beloved family and friends, being treated with respect and much.

I am still processing. And still so thankful that I am part of an organization that can celebrate what is beautiful and good in the world while also bravely facing and working to combat what is truly unjust and horrible in the world, if only through educating it's members on those issues.

Maryam Nouh
Distinguished Belle
Fourth Year Bruin Belle


Popular posts from this blog

Imposter Syndrome and Finding Myself

The person I was when I stepped on campus 4 years ago is unrecognizable to me now. I came to college knowing that I wanted to be pre-med but having no friends or family following a similar path, I felt so lost in navigating my path on my own. I started college being terrified of failing. I was so naive and so desperate to succeed I was not taking care of myself. My second year was when I reached my lowest point. I was so depressed and lonely, I considered leaving  UCLA. I did not feel smart enough to be there, I didn’t feel likable enough because I didn’t really have friends. Joining Belles in my junior year was a big part of completely transforming my UCLA experience. Belles was the first time I felt completely embraced by a group of people. It was the first space in which I felt like everyone truly wanted the best for each other. The people and the opportunity to help others were exactly what my heart needed at that time in my life. Service is something that is so incredibly importan

Finding My Community

Coming onto campus for the first time as a sophomore was especially daunting. Similar to most people, transitioning to in-person classes and dorm life was challenging. As I attended classes and other club meetings, I felt like I might have missed out on opportunities during the online year to reach out to people and make friends. Stuck with random roommates and no close friends on campus, I felt very isolated. This wasn’t the college experience that I had imagined. But then I started attending Belles meetings and events, and things began to slowly click into place.  Bruin Belles is such a uniquely amazing community where everyone is passionate about so many different things in terms of both academics and personal interests. The Belles community inspired me then and continues to encourage me to push the boundaries of my academic and professional pursuit, to put myself out there, and to carry a positive and optimistic attitude into all my endeavors. From volunteering at the LA Times Fest

What I Didn't Know

  What I didn't know The morning after I got the highly anticipated call that I got into Bruin Belles, I found this bell (figure 1) on my dorm door: a door belle…get it? I can still very clearly remember the few weeks surrounding this moment. I wanted it SO BADLY! When I saw the Belles tri-fold at the enormous activities fair, I knew immediately that I needed to be a part of that community. On paper, it sounded like everything I wanted: a group of likeminded passionate women who did community service together and other social events. I worked tirelessly on my application and was so nervous for my interview that I signed up for the very first slot (Monday at 8am… yikes). I got the long-awaited call late on a Friday night. Yashvi, the public relations director at the time, told me that I had gotten in, and while still on the phone I screamed “I GOT IN!” to my roommate. My heart was beating so fast. However, I think if I had known what was to come, my heart would have beat so fast it