The Arts for Gender Justice Initiative

At the Global Women’s Institute (GWI), we believe art has the power to speak to our humanity in ways we don’t often exercise in everyday life. Art touches us on levels that surpass logic, by reaching our most vulnerable and authentic selves. When we see a powerful visual image, watch a play, or hear a song, we may experience profound aspects of the human condition.

The Arts for Gender Justice is an outreach initiative of the Global Women’s Institute, curated by GWI-Affiliated Faculty member Leslie Jacobson of the Theater and Dance Department. Under Leslie’s leadership, GWI cultivates artistic opportunities to promote social justice and gender equality. The Arts for Gender Justice Initiative creates awareness through art about issues of women’s empowerment, and challenges harmful norms and beliefs about women on campus and beyond.

Past events have included film screenings; performances and workshops with the Bokamoso Youth Centre from Winterveldt, South Africa; and a performance of the original play DC Seven, written and directed by Leslie Jacobson. DC Seven tells the personal stories of women activists in the DC area who have overcome a variety of challenges to make positive social change in their community. 


About the Curator 

Leslie Jacobson has spent 40 years producing, writing, directing, and teaching theatre committed to addressing societal challenges and to giving voice to people often marginalized by the dominant culture. She is the Founding Artistic Director of Horizons… theatre from a Woman’s Perspective. Under her leadership from 1977 to 2007, Horizons introduced Washington audiences to over 60 new plays and playwrights through fully staged professional productions, and another 50 through public staged readings.

Jacobson has been a Professor of Theatre at The George Washington University since 1977, serving as Department Chair for 13 years. In 2003, she began a relationship with the Bokamoso Youth Centre, located in the impoverished rural township of Winterveldt, South Africa. In collaboration with Roy Barber, she has created eight music/theatre pieces with at-risk youth from the Centre. Since 2003, a dozen of the youth have traveled to Washington each winter to perform and serve as informal ambassadors to the D.C. community in general, and The George Washington University community in particular. Starting in 2013, the GWI has been a partner in the youths’ residency.

Leslie believes: “Human beings are hungry for story – it is the way we understand each other; the way we transfer experience; and through it we can practice the very human art of empathizing with another person. This process of storytelling requires only two elements: the teller and the listener. With an audience bearing witness, a performance becomes a transformative experience for everyone – and can inspire us to make positive societal change.”