By Honey E. Nixon, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsSeptember 1, 2017
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Sept. 1, 2017) -- The I Corps (Forward) hosted Camp Zama's Women's Equality Day Observance Aug. 24 at the Community Recreation Center in recognition of women's fight for equality and the right to vote in America.
WED commemorates the certification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote Aug. 26, 1920 long after the 1848 world's first women's rights convention in New York, according to National Women's History Project's website.
The ceremony began with Col. Darrell Green, commander of 1st Corps (Forward), welcoming attendees along with distinguished guests. He also thanked Equal Opportunity volunteers for helping to continue the U.S. Army initiative of "pursuing equality and equal treatment, not just for all service members, but for everyone."
Audience members viewed a historical video about women's suffrage followed by an interactive skit with a brief reenactment of Rosa Park's landmark refusal to give up her bus seat.
The skit continued with volunteers entering the stage -- one at a time -- dressed as famous women in history while audience members did their best to guess the participants' identities for a prize.
Spc. Laura Medina, volunteer actor, said she was reluctant at first to play the role of one of the historic women, but found a way to push past her fears after some reflection.
"To be honest, I was hesitant because I don't do very well in front of big crowds," said Medina, "but then I realized it's important to have a voice, especially as a woman, and this is our day…so I felt empowered to do it."
Cmdr. Sonya Waters, officer-in-charge for U.S. Navy Branch Health Clinic-Atsugi, served as this year's keynote speaker. She made strides as a woman in the military, becoming the U.S. Navy's first African American female dive medical officer in 2001.
After thanking the audience for a warm welcome and giving a brief history of women's equality, Waters reminded audience members of the importance of WED.
"In 1920, this day stood for the culmination of 72 years of campaigning by a huge civil rights movement for women.
"Prior to movements like this, it was widely believed, and accepted, that a woman's 'inferior' status in society was completely logical and reasonable. And, that women were 'beautiful' and 'not fit' for serious employment."
Waters continued the speech with a list of trailblazing women from American and military history whom she found inspiring, including the current Rear Admiral Natsue Kondo, the first female admiral for Japan Self-Defense Force.
"I dare somebody… anybody to tell any of these women, or even insinuate that they are not 'fit' for serious employment," said Waters. "The last century has shown, more than ever, exactly what both women and men can do if given the opportunity."
Green added to her sentiments, saying what matters most in women's history is not just the past women suffered but how they make history today.
"It's about what women are doing today," said Green. "And our little girls -- what potential and what futures they have as they grow up. It's to make sure that stays in everyone's conscious."
"This day has grown to encompass total equality for women, not just in America, but around the world," said Waters. "I truly believe that the few brief accomplishments that I mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg!"