This Saturday, Unalaska is hosting the second annual Bering Sea Women's Conference.
Organizer Beatriz Dietrick said the event is about bringing women together to share their stories.
Dietrick sat down with KUCB's Hope McKenney to explain.
BEATRIZ DIETRICK: Storytelling is a very powerful tool and it can promote empathy, connectedness, and be very helpful for building strength in a community. And the idea was to focus more on involving various other communities outside of Unalaska as well. Not necessarily just people from communities along the Bering Sea either, but really reaching out to women in Alaska and women outside of Alaska and expanding the net of the conference.
KUCB: Why is it important to bring women together in this space?
DIETRICK: Somebody much smarter than myself could elaborate on the various trends that we're seeing with out-migration of women from rural Alaska communities — women leaving at pretty high numbers and not returning to rural Alaska towns. So having a conference directed specifically towards women is very important in establishing these connections and communities of women that will hopefully promote women to stay in these communities or come back to these communities because we've got this infrastructure and this community of women that are really supportive. Women play a very vital role in any town and especially in rural Alaska, where everybody has a really important role and everybody's actions impact each other hugely. To have a conference like this, to inspire people to tell their stories and become involved in the community, to advocate for women's rights, human rights, whatever interests them — those are the kind of things that we see transpire after a conference like this. So that's why it's important to do these things.
KUCB: Who's going to be speaking at this year's conference?
DIETRICK: We have three amazing speakers that I'm so excited about. I'll talk a little bit about Candace Nielsen first. She is a resident of Cold Bay, and she's coming up on the M/V Tustumena that [Sept. 14] morning and leaving on the Tustumena after the conference, so she'll be here very briefly. But Candace is an incredible woman. She has served on the City Council in Cold Bay. She served as mayor for two years. Currently, she is the director of the public library there, and she is working on a degree in rural development through University of Alaska Fairbanks. So she's a pretty impressive individual. Our next speaker is Michelle Theriault Boots, and she is a journalist in Alaska. She currently is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She has three children, and she's a very busy individual and has so many fascinating stories that you can read online. She is so excited to come, and we're so excited to have her. The third speaker is Laurel Braitman, and Laurel has come through our community a few times working on various stories. She is a professor at Stanford's medical school, a TED Fellow, and a New York Times best-selling author. Just a really engaging person.
KUCB: Is there anything else that I should have asked you?
DIETRICK: I guess I do have one more thing to add. I really want to thank all the people who have made this possible. All the volunteers and our other sponsors, Salmon Sisters, Optimera, the Grand Aleutian Hotel, Unalaskans Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence (USAFV), and Unalaska Brew Co. Thank you all, and thank you so much, Hope, for having me today.
The Bering Sea Women's Conference is Saturday, Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Grand Aleutian Hotel. It's free and open to the public. Register online here.