Students present proposals for women’s health reform

<p>Justice Hehir, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, talks about reproductive justice Friday at the Douglass Campus Center.</p>

Justice Hehir, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, talks about reproductive justice Friday at the Douglass Campus Center.


Laws alone cannot change high female mortality, said Rachel Cusumano, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior. Rather, society needs to change its perception of women.

Students presented proposals about women’s health at an event hosted by the Douglass Residential College and the Rutgers Center for Global Advancement and International Affairs on Friday at the Douglass Campus Center.

The presentations commemorated the 20th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, which took place in Cairo, Egypt, said Margot Baruch, director of Traditional Programs and Global Engagement at Douglass Residential College.

“The International Conference on Population and Development is one of the most fundamental conferences that took place about issues related to women’s rights and their health,” Baruch said.

The organizers selected nine proposals out of 20 total submissions, Baruch said. They asked students to submit their proposals in January and narrowed down the submissions based on their focus and the relationship to the conference’s theme.

“The submission[s] were very competitive,” Baruch said. “I am very happy with the outcome of the event. All the students were well prepared for their presentations. Also, I am pleased with the audience participation and the amount of people who attended the event.”

This event informed the public about issues including sexual health and education, family planning, poverty, inequality, access to healthcare and immigrant rights and youth, she said.

The students who presented their proposals left with a better awareness of ICPD, and perhaps refined their interests and passions related to women’s health and the ICPD, she said.

In the United States, people are not as aware of global conferences as people in other countries, she said.

“I think this event put these global challenges on people’s radar, and let them know women’s health issues are occurring and there are solutions,” Baruch said.

She hopes to plan another competition focused on women’s health issues this fall.

Cusumano’s presentation, titled “117 Million Missing Women,” explained how people preferred to have males instead of females. Gendercide is the deliberate elimination of a gender.

Due to different cultural beliefs, men are seen as being superior since they can carry the family lineage while women are viewed as burden, she said.

Cusumano suggested a new educational system that must be implemented within a cultural framework.

“It is important to train women in a specific skill, such as medicine,” she said.

Justice Hehir, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, discussed reproductive justice.

Healthcare affects a lot of immigrant women, she said.

“It is important to understand that immigrant women have obstacles [such as] low wages, Medicaid and lack of documentation,” Hehir said “These obstacles make women very vulnerable.”

People should support Planned Parenthood, a provider of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men and young people, and the nation’s largest provider of sex education, she said.

Audrey Ardine, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, focused her presentation on teen pregnancy and sexual education. Pregnant teens are less likely to finish school, she said.

“People can positively contribute by creating open and safe environments where teens can have an education inside and outside the classroom,” Ardine said.

She is a part of Douglass Friends of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, which advocates for women’s health on a global scale.

“The event was very informative and included broad knowledge on specific women’s issues. I enjoyed seeing people share information and hope to have their ideas utilized in real life,” Ardine said.

Michelle Muska, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, explained how poverty affects women’s health in the United States and globally.

“I am so grateful for the opportunities and the life I have,” she said.

Hua Ni, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, said female migrant workers need improvement in their reproductive health. Women face bad working conditions in factories, causing health issues.

These problems arise because of gender inequality, culture and education, Ni said.

“I recommend making public health more accessible, encouraging women to go to college and included sex education in schools,” she said.

Antoinette Gingerelli, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said she attended the event to support her friends that are a part of Douglass Friends of UNFPA. It is a relatively new program on campus, she said.

She hoped to learn more about the ICPD connection between women’s health and women’s issues from the program, Gingerelli said.

“The Douglass Friends of UNFPA allows me to get more involved in women’s issues,” she said.

Neha Sood, a judge for the event, said she was blown away by the presentations.

The students had good presentation skills and eye contact, said Sood, advocacy and policy officer for Action Canada for Population and Development.

Hehir won the first place award, Srutika Sabu, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior stood second. Ni got third place and Muska, an honorable mention.

“It was really difficult to make the decision about who would win the top three prizes. They all had so much to offer,” Baruch said.


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