Teigye Birey- Women's Studies student and major, 4/13/2010
Tegiye Birey, a senior at UNH, is paving a pathway to change. Currently a double major in Political Science and Women’s Studies with a minor in French, she has done incredible work within her fields. This student’s passion and zest for knowledge and learning has inspired other students, faculty, and community members at UNH.
Growing up in Cyprus, Tegiye had questions about the gender inequalities she observed. These questions led her to UNH in 2006 as a full time student. One of the first classes she took was Women’s Studies 401 which gave her some answers but drove her to take more classes to expand her knowledge. Tegiye says that “Women’s Studies is the best thing that has ever happened to me” and it has given her a framework she never had before. As her college education progressed so did her activism and involvement within the community.
Starting off at Smith Hall as a 1st year student until she was a junior, Tegiye joined Hall council for all three years. She was a delegate for the UN Commission on the Status of Women for the National Model United Nations and has worked on improving women’s positions in the world. For the past four years, Tegiye has been part of the Cultural Connections program where international students make presentations about their home countries every semester. She was in the recent performance of the Vagina Monologues in February. To end her senior year Tegiye is a teaching practicum student (TA) with Carol Conaway, her first Women’s Studies professor for 401.
Apart from these accomplishments, Tegiye remains an active presence in her home country, Cyprus. People in Cyprus face gender justice issues such as human trafficking and prostitution. According to Tegiye, prostitutes and victims of human trafficking have their passports taken away, and she describes this as being imprisonment. While she is extremely aware of the gender issues that still occur, she says that politicians in Cyprus believe that there are no problems. Men are still the dominant gender in politics and women remain primarily in lower status occupations. According to Tegiye, gender inequality is normalized in Cypriot culture. Luckily, there are people like Tegiye who are trying to raise awareness of these political issues.
Tegiye is part of a feminist group in Cyprus and writes articles for a weekly magazine, aimed at younger kids and parents who are more liberal and leftist. One of the strongest messages she offers came from an Ani DiFranco song where she says, “You’re either a feminist or a sexist.” Tegiye feels strongly about this statement and says, “those who are passive are still sexist” because they are contributing through their silence. Her next article will focus on post-colonialism in Cyprus.
After UNH, Tegiye plans to attend graduate school in London. She is going to continue to study gender and political science with a development focus. In addition, Tegiye wants to continue writing, reading, and being an activist. Her dream is to write a book. UNH is extremely lucky to have been graced with her drive for change and her creative energy and passions will touch communities everywhere. Good luck, Tegiye!