WiSTEM leaders Kaussler, Kirwan, Ludwig organize week of Women, Life, Freedom


Photo courtesy of Myron Blosser

Sophomores Clare Kirwan, Soraya Kaussler, Lucy Ludwig, freshman Shirin Kaussler and senior Emma Swartz work the lunch table to inform students of the events happening in Iran.

Clare Kirwan and Riley Thompson

“Because this is a women’s rights movement, it only feels fitting for women to stand up and support each other.”

The WiSTEM chapter held a week of ‘Women. Life. Freedom.’ Dec. 5-9 to spread awareness and education on the women’s rights movement happening in Iran.

“We did a week of Women, Life, Freedom and our main goal was to spread information and awareness, as well as try to raise as much money as we can to donate to the Center for Human Rights in Iran,” junior Lucy Ludwig said.

Ludwig is the president of WiSTEM and along with juniors Clare Kirwan, Soraya Kaussler and freshman Shirin Kaussler, they took the initiative of organizing the week.

“We knew we wanted to do something [about the movement], but we didn’t come up with this idea until literally a week before we had to get it done. We didn’t want to do it the last week of school because we thought that the winter break spirit week could overshadow it and we felt like this was really important. It needed to be something standalone. We didn’t want to do it after winter break because of how current it is,” Kirwan said. 

Students volunteered all week spreading information on the issue, wore a unifying color on Wednesday and held an ice cream fundraiser.

“For our week at a glance—Monday we set up tables during all the lunch shifts to share infographics that were made by Clare to spread information and let people know [about] what’s going on. Tuesday we did a fundraiser at Smiley’s Ice Cream and 20% of the sales that Smiley’s makes during the time of 5-9 p.m. will be donated to us, which will then be directly donated to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. Then Wednesday we wore purple to support human rights. Thursday and Friday was ‘test your knowledge,’ so with the information that people learned on Monday [they] to put that to use and test their knowledge,” Ludwig said.

The girls first became aware of the movement and its importance from Soraya and Shirin Kaussler who come from a Persian family and still have distant family and friends in Iran.

“For my family, this is something very close to my heart and something that I’m very passionate about and that I want other people to know about. I think that if more people knew about it, more people would care because these are fundamental rights that everybody should be able to have. These are rights of women and we should be able to have our own freedom. We shouldn’t be worth half of a man. It’s 2022, we should have these rights,” Soraya Kaussler said.

We shouldn’t be worth half of a man.

— Soraya Kaussler

Soraya and Shirin Kaussler along with their parents Diar and Bernie Kaussler were able to provide the information for the graphics and have acted as advocates for the issue at the school since the movement began.

“Our main goal with it was not to be anti-Islam or anti-hijab or try to project our views on other people. I was to raise awareness and education because there’s very few reliable sources coming out right now and it’s really hard to tell what’s actually happening. We did what we could and we talked to the counselors and a couple other Persian people in the area to find reliable sources and do some things that we really wanted to do,” Kirwan said.

The internet is currently shut down in Iran and much of the information is heavily restricted and censored. It is difficult to find reliable sources and information on what is truly happening there.

“This week is important because it is the week of protests and strikes that are happening in Iran nationwide. We felt it was a very fitting week to do it. Also there’s been a lot of false news regarding the abolishment of the morality police, so we thought that this is a perfect time where we can use our voices and useful knowledge we have to be able to educate and help others learn about it,” Kaussler said.

Over 500 protesters have been killed, thousands are detained and the government executed the first prisoner from protests Dec. 7.

“Organizing this week has been something really powerful for me as an individual because I’ve learned so much not only about myself and about Clare and Lucy, but also about how important this type of stuff is, and how important and beneficial it is to share this with other people. If you do reach out, people will reciprocate the same energy and they will care, it’s just sometimes you have to give them a little push,” Soraya Kaussler said.

Kaussler, Kirwan and Ludwig are close friends outside of WiSTEM, and felt their bond allowed them to be able to spread awareness and uplift the voices of Iranian women to the best of their ability.

“Reposting is something that is the most helpful thing that you can do as an individual right now. It might not seem like posting and reposting things on social media is helpful, but really as somebody who is living here, we’re not in Iran, we can’t go to the streets of Iran and protest. We can protest here by posting on social media and that’s the easiest, it’s so easy to just click a button and repost something. It does no harm,” Soraya Kaussler said. 

For science teacher Megan Cullip, awareness was important, but the most important aspect about the week was that it was a student led event. 

“It’s important to get the word out and inform people, but what was really cool was giving [students] the reins to have that voice and step up and share what [they] thought was important,” Cullip said.

With graphics created on what is happening in Iran, why the movement is important and how students can help, the girls took to promoting the week on social media.

“We’ve had tons of reposts on all our stories and information. People really like what we’re doing and that was impactful for us to see in that even in such a short amount of time and just as three high school juniors, we could make an impact and put something together this big,” Kirwan said.

The girls put together the week in a short amount of time. While it was something they were excited for, the stress of getting approval and logistics sorted out in just a couple of days was taxing.

“I think [what we did was] super important. The things that we’re doing right now and the stress that we overcame to make all of this happen and then also the students and teachers’ response to it. They’ve been immensely supportive and for that we are forever grateful,” Ludwig said.

The fight for women’s rights in Iran continues, with the government making punishments more severe than ever before.

“Being able to change one person’s perspective or just educate one person is more than enough. It’s impactful. It changes them and it changes us when I see that that’s happening and it’s a big deal. It makes us proud to be honest,” Soraya Kaussler said.