Taking action for Women’s Empowerment: Reflections from Capitol Hilltop Conference 2019 Keynote Sess

This past weekend GlobeMed at George Washington University hosted an evening session for students to close out the conference on Transforming Public Health on a Global Scale. Speakers for the evening were women’s leadership champion, Mrs. Temi Ifafore-Calfee, and journalist Dr. Hala Aldosari.

Dr. Hala Aldosari addresses the crowd.

Mrs. Ifafore-Calfee, who brings 15 years of international experience, spoke about her path to global health and how she found Women in Global Health. She highlight four important ways to leave lasting impact on a Global Scale:

  • Improve the state of women – Mrs. Ifafore-Calfee’s opened with a take home message that if college students wanted to make an impact at a global level they would need to do something that improves the state of women. With women comprising 70% of the health workforce, women’s empowerment unpins every major global effort

  • Find like-minded individuals – Students often wonder where to start with making an impact. Mrs. Ifafore-Calfee encouraged students to identify individuals that shared their vision and work together.

  • Start small – students can start by contacting their government representatives to ensure global public health issues are included at high level meetings

  • Use tools available to disseminate key asks and messages – Mrs. Ifafore-Calfee shared the story of how Women in Global Health was founded over Twitter. She encouraged students to use tools and networks available to try to affect change.

Saudi activist, journalist, and health disparities researcher, Dr. Hala Aldosari, was the keynote speaker for the evening. She started her talk by sharing her experience of research into intimate partner violence against women in Saudi Arabia. She first decided to look at violence against women, when as a PhD student, she realized that WHO would not study violence against women in countries where there were no resources should informants reveal experience of violence at home. This meant that WHO figures on violence against women excluded most of the Arab Gulf States. This exclusion, done for ethical purposes, also meant that women in the region would continue to be undercounted and voiceless. Dr. Aldosari sought to understand the prevalence of violence against women in the Arab Gulf states and her research showed that approximately 45% of women she interviewed experienced intimate partner violence. This led her to start a blog to provide Saudi women with information on what to do in cases of domestic abuse, and on human rights in general.

In her work, Dr. Aldosari realized that more needed to be done to address root cause issues of women's oppression. It was necessary to also look at the laws in place that disempowered women including laws that prohibited women from driving, laws that required women to have an escort, and laws that placed children with the husband’s family in instances of divorce. For students interested in taking action, she left them with one peice of tangible advice: consider signing the Every Woman Treaty. The treaty is the work of a dedicated group of experts to end violence against women and girls by creating a comprehensive legal framework that would be applied as an international minimum standard to protect women and girls.

To learn more about the Every Woman Treaty see: Every Woman.org.

To learn more about Women in Global Health see: Women In Global Health Call to Action

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