Student organization promotes women’s health events

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The Maternal and Child Health Student Organization at the USF College of Public Health is backing a women’s health issues teleconference sponsored by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. The teleconference will be held at the Marshall Student Center on Oct. 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

MPH students Christina Sudduth and Jessica Gipson, who in May wrapped up a year as MCHSO president, are working behind the scenes for its success.

“Most of the work is really just getting the word out about the event,” Sudduth said. “We have the speakers and panelists confirmed. The Maternal and Child Health Organization, which Jessica represents, has been a partner in that, and some other student organizations have been getting the word out.”

“One of the reasons why I was so eager to assist Christina in this,” Gipson said, “is that she and I both, on separate occasions, had the opportunity to go to Panama with a course through USF that really opened up my eyes to what goes on outside of the U.S., the things that women deal with on a daily basis living in developing countries.”

The course was an online offering based at COPH that included a week in Panama at its conclusion. While in Panama, students met with local public health agencies and gave presentations of the research they had conducted during the semester.

“What’s really great about that course and how it ties in with this event is that it focuses on women’s health in a broad spectrum approach,” Gipson said, “as issues of violence and aging and economic equality all play roles in women’s health. It really takes a human rights perspective of health, so I hope this event continues that.”

Gipson said other international travel made a similar impression on her and provided further impetus to get involved with promoting the event.

“I also went to India,” she said, “so this was a really big opportunity for me, because not everyone has that same opportunity to go outside of the country and see what’s going on. So, bringing women in from other countries who are at higher-level policy positions like this to spread awareness and give light to what happens was important for me to share with the university and the community.”

un panel

The MCHSO is also touting an annual U.N. practicum and encouraging USF students to apply for attendance to the March 2015 event.

“Each year, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom holds a United Nations practicum for students throughout the States to go to the Commission on the Status of Women meetings in New York at the U.N. headquarters,” Sudduth said. “This is in advance of accepting applications for the 2015 practicum. So it’s getting the word out about that opportunity but also about the work that the organization does on a day-to-day basis.”

The practicum features a different focus each year, Sudduth said, adding that she participated the 2013 practicum on millennium development goals.

“The Commission on the Status of Women works with NGOs and international governments to hone in on women’s and girls’ rights within international policy and goals,” she said. “Last year, it was about what kinds of lines and policies we, as the community of professionals, would like to see in the post-development goals as they relate to women’s and girls’ health, well-being and rights.

“This year, it’s based on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing plan of action, which set a precedent for the types of goals that international organizations would like to work toward as far as women’s rights and women’s health on a global scale.”

While the U.N. practicum has a specific focus, Sudduth said, it stays within the realm of women’s peace and security, and the WILPF as a whole concentrates its year-round attention on women’s safety and rights within times of conflict.

Sudduth said that Dr. Ellen Daly, professor in the Department of Community and Family Health, and Dr. Cheryl Vamos, assistant professor in the department, have been leaders in supporting the cause and helping to spread awareness of the event through the Center for Transdisciplinary Research for Women’s Health, which functions within CFH.

 Story by David Brothers, College of Public Health.

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