There are thousands who believe in equal rights but find “feminism” a word and a movement that doesn’t align. However, many of us myself included have faced discrimination beyond doubt. That being said our editor-in-chief and founder, Shazir Mucklai had a chance to chat with Coral Katave, the founder of Religious Women in Medicine and Science.
Coral Katave- President
Tiara Choi- Vice President
Sophia Achar- Creative Director
Mimi Nguyen- Treasurer
Amaris Esquivel- Fundraising Coordinator
Sree Yarlagadda – Secretary
Gloria Okereke- Event Coordinator
SM: What sparked the inspiration behind RWIMS?
CK: My name is Coral Katave, and I am a student studying Biology at the University of Texas at Dallas. I grew up in a very religious, orthodox Jewish community in Dallas. We were taught the Bible and to get married early in order to have children and raise them in the path of God. When I chose to take a different path than my community to attend a secular university to achieve my goals of becoming a doctor, I received a lot of backlash from religious and academic leaders about my decision. I was told I was straying from the path of God and that I would never be able to balance my religion, a family, and a time-consuming job like medicine. I started RWIMS at UTDallas because I realized I was not the only woman facing such circumstances. I met many girls from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist backgrounds who were facing the same aggression from their parents and communities. RWIMS, Religious Women in Medicine and Science is an organization that will fight to empower women of religion in their paths to becoming doctors and scientists. We will provide a supportive, safe environment for these women as we fight to end the stigmas that face us as a whole.
SM: Where do you see the image of the club in the next 3 years?
CK: I see a really bright future for RWIMS. I hope to expand this organization to other schools around the states because I realize that this is an issue that religious women everywhere are facing. I also want to expand RWIMS to the world outside the educational system. We are currently working on becoming a non-profit organization as well, so we can reach a wider audience. Having support systems at schools is wonderful, but the real problem needs to be solved in the homes of these women. Parents, religious, and communal leaders need to hear that they’re wrong in deterring young girls from their dreams. They need to understand that there CAN be a perfect balance between religion and these girls’ dreams. Having this organization as a non-profit will allow us to have the ability to create places within the communities where these girls grow up, so we can empower them within the very systems that try to put them down.
SM: Have you personally experienced any issue studying medicine as a minority?
CK: I definitely have experienced issues studying in a university when I have so many religious restrictions. One example would be the Sabbath, which I observe every Friday night to Saturday night, as well as other religious holidays I observe. On the Sabbath, as well as other religious holidays,, as a religious Jew, I am forbidden from using electronics, driving, writing, etc, so it definitely makes it hard to complete my assignments. I have to start my assignments very early on so I can finish them before the necessary due date. I can’t take exams these days either, so many times I end up taking them earlier or taking another version of the exam (and having less time to study) than the average student.
With all the hardship my religion presents, it is also the main aspect of my life that inspires me to do what I do. I am pursuing medicine because contrary to the beliefs of my community I do believe it is what God wants me to do. In Judiasm, we always talk about finding your “Matara,” your purpose, in life. I believe helping people and saving lives is my purpose in life. I believe with all my heart that this is the reason God put me on this earth.
SM: What are your career aspirations?
CK: I will become a doctor in the future, but I am keeping my mind open in terms of what specialty. I will enter medical school with an open mind, as the human body is so fascinating. Right now, OB-Gyn and Pediatrics interest me, however, my mind might change. I ultimately want to learn and experience medicine as much as possible before I choose a specialty.
SM: How can women uphold their values while going up against the traditional status quo?
The only answer to that is a belief system, a support system, and determination which are all aspects that RWIMS is trying to promote and provide for religious women. If women believe that their values are actually supported, there is nothing stopping them. The problem with today’s religious communities is that they are often founded upon beliefs that are too traditional. Women have always had a voice but it was always silenced by society, and women never really fought to go against that traditional status quos. Nowadays, it is up to women to USE that voice they were taught to keep quiet, and the only way to make this happen is by empowering them and making them believe that contrary to what their religious leaders are telling them, there is nothing wrong with their decisions to pursue their dreams.