Public Health student Christina Sudduth is one of 20 females chosen from across the nation to participate in an advocacy practicum in New York City. The event was held in conjunction with the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which offered an opportunity to observe how the UN works to address issues requiring multilateral engagement and coordinated action.
“Women’s health is a product of our education attainment, our involvement in policy development, and our opportunities in the formal employment sector,” Sudduth said. “When our experience is incorporated at all of these levels we will see better outcomes for women’s health and women’s rights.”
The CSW practicum, sponsored by the Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and the National Women’s Studies Association, facilitated hands-on experience in the art of advocacy. Participants gained temporary delegate status with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to attend official and NGO sessions, and contributed to the official documentation of the meetings.
“The UN Practicum with WILPF was an excellent opportunity to see first-hand how international priorities are set, as well as how civil society and NGOs [non-government organizations] can interact and influence that agenda,” Sudduth said. “As public health professionals, this process and the skill set of advocacy are critical to our work.”
The CSW is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. Each year, the CSW brings together representatives of governments to address the problems facing women and girls around the world. In 2014, more than 4,000 registered representatives from NGOs lobbied with the delegates about their work and current issues to ensure their voices and ideas were present at the table.
“This year the CSW session focused on how the Millennium Development Goals affect women and girls and how the Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals can better meet the goals of the CSW for gender equality and the advancement of women,” Sudduth said.
“We teach the women how important citizen engagement is,” said Laura Roskos, previous president of the US Section of WILPF. “They figure out the ropes, learn how to network with NGOs, and meet government officials. This success empowers them to engage in successful civic campaigns in their home environments.”
“I am thankful for the travel scholarship I received from the MCH Leadership Training Program to attend this session,” Sudduth said. “As I continue brainstorming ideas on the type of advocacy project to develop as an extension of the practicum, my hopes are to engage my public health colleagues in a discussion on the role of the UN and the strategies we may use to support our future work—whether that be women’s health or public health in general.”
A graduate student concentrating in global health practice, Sudduth earned dual bachelor degrees from Oregon State University in nutrition science and international studies. After graduation from the USF College of Public Health in 2015, she hopes to “continue incorporating the research, advocacy, and program development skills I learned in the COPH to issues of human rights and women’s health.”
Ms. Sudduth learned of the advocacy practicum via participation in International Perspectives on Women’s Health, a course co-taught by Department of Community and Family Health faculty Cheryl A. Vamos, PhD, MPH and Arlene Calvo, PhD. The online class culminates with a week-long case study in Panama City, Panama where graduate students gain a greater awareness and appreciation of the historical, political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental factors influencing pertinent public health issues that women face globally. One competency in particular involves controversial issues and advocating on behalf of marginalized girls and women worldwide regarding the inequalities and disparities that they face. To learn more about this course, contact Dr. Vamos at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Calvo at email@example.com.
In the group photo are all the delegates for WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom). WILPF is the NGO that coordinated the Practicum and have consultative status with the UN. In the photo are the 20 women who were part of the practicum, as well as other representatives of the organization.
Established in 1984 as the first school of public health in the State of Florida, the USF College of Public Health is a recognized leader in community health, online education, maternal and child health, social marketing, and global infectious disease research. Fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, the college offers 25 concentrations that lead to MHA, MPH, MSPH, DrPH, and PhD degrees, as well as a BSPH, several dual degrees, graduate certificates, and online programs. To learn more about the college committed to passionately solve problems and create conditions that allow every person the universal right to health and well-being, visit www.publichealth.usf.edu.
Submitted by Drs. Arlene Calvo and Cheryl Vamos, USF College of Public Health