Alexandra Athans spotlights inspiring stories of women in the Laie community
Written by
Carly Coombs and Olivia Hixson
Faces of Women in Laie
Image By
Keyu Xiao

Photographs of women in the community were displayed on Nov. 15 in the McKay Foyer for a Women of Laie presentation. Alexandra Athans, the organizer for the event, highlighted stories of women from distinct backgrounds, ethnicities and experiences.

The night was titled “Divine Differences” and through various forms of art, such as poems, videos and live art, three presenters shared their stories of female triumphs.

Athans, a senior from Laie majoring in intercultural peacebuilding, created Women of Laie, a non-governmental organization and a nonprofit, about a year ago as part of her participation in the peacebuilding program. Athans said her goal for the organization was to share stories of women in the community and on campus.

For her senior capstone, Athans decided to showcase some of the stories she had collected for her Women of Laie NGO, creating the “Divine Differences” event.

She said she chose to create Women of Laie because she wanted to highlight the positive in the community, rather than the issues and the negatives. Athans hoped the presentation will help students become more aware of those around them.

“Instead of fixing something that is wrong, let’s see what there is [that is right]. There’s so much around, use what’s not broken . . . I want [students] to be mindful that there are other people on campus that are struggling, that don’t look like us or that aren’t the same.”


Skinny kind of pretty

During “Divine Differences,” Reni Broughton, a junior from New Zealand majoring in interdisciplinary studies, shared a heartfelt poem addressing the need for women to stand together, rather than comparing themselves to one another.

Broughton said her favorite line from the poem discusses where a woman’s true beauty begins.

“True beauty isn’t found in the contours of our faces or the shape of our bodies, it’s found in the root of our identity as a beloved child of our Heavenly Father.”

After writing this poem at the age of 16, Broughton shared she realized she needed to stop viewing herself in a negative light and embrace her role as a daughter of Heavenly Father.

Incorporating this into her life, Broughton said, “I feel like I became a much better friend. [I’m] more empathetic and compassionate toward the experiences people were having, especially women.”

Ultimately, Broughton shared she wants women to become who they are meant to be and to uplift other women. “I realized then that what I wanted to do for myself is to help other women feel empowered in themselves and to [remember] their relationship with God.”


Living art

Elijah Lemusuifeauali’i, a sophomore from Australia studying pacific island studies, presented a unique art display, featuring a model in traditional Polynesian wear.

Lemusuifeauali’i shared he carved and handcrafted each part of the intricate attire, honoring what his grandparents and other family members taught him about the traditional crafts of their people.

He said although the pieces displayed were more masculine, he felt it accurately depicted how women can take on many responsibilities. He shared he saw the direct impact of strong women because he was raised by a single mother.

“At this age, I can reflect back and see, man, my mom took on a lot and sacrificed a lot. She was … the father, the mother, everything to us.”

He also shared his genuine awe at how powerful women are, saying, “Just because a man can do it, doesn’t mean a woman can’t do it.

“Women can do anything. If they put their mind to it, they can do anything they want.”


Outside of the box

Using a creative way to tell stories, Laauli Gatoloai, a BYUH alumnus, used videography to tell the story of Margaret Krishnavelu, a student from India. Krishnavelu discussed the struggle of getting into BYUH and being unable to finish her degree due to reasons beyond her control.   

Gataoloai said he chose to help on the project because of his love for sharing stories. “I think the more stories we hear… the better we get to understand each other.

“I just want to make sure the story is being told correctly and positively.”

He shared men need to know the struggles women face and support the women in their lives.

“There’s a lot more to women than guys think. They do have dreams beyond being a mother, beyond being a wife.”

Because of this video, he shared there are many unique ways to express stories, challenges and successes.

“There’s so many creative ways you can help people build bridges. We need to think outside of the box, to get out of the box.”

Date Published
November 22, 2019
Last Edited
November 22, 2019