The research and educational experiences that led me to my current work were originally catalyzed during my sophomore year at university. Though I was already an enthusiastic undergraduate public health student, I found my interest in health issues truly piqued when I read Three Cups of Tea, where Greg Mortenson states, “If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls.”1 This caused me to consider how female literacy and health fit together, and how this potential connection might positively affect underprivileged women and their families. Around this time my husband and I traveled to Chimaltenango, Guatemala to work in an orphanage for our honeymoon. It was there that the necessity of literacy and health education became a tangible reality for me. I watched the children’s eyes light up whenever I asked if they wanted to read stories, and it struck me that none of them had enjoyed the benefits of school; they couldn’t read at all. This understanding was highlighted as I observed the uneducated orphanage staff struggle to provide sanitary conditions for the children, manifesting the interdependency between health and literacy. The critical need for education had never been more evident to me, and I decided to pursue the concept with a research project. I applied for and received research funding from my school, which I used to research my paper entitled "Female Literacy: Effects on Women and Children in Sub-Saharan Africa."
My commitment to literacy and prevention is currently manifested in my work as a volunteer intern for the non-profit organization Koins for Kenya. Working in partnership with LDS Humanitarian Services, we are developing female hygiene kits to aid girls in rural Kenya in overcoming the challenges that adolescence poses to continuing education. Many young girls are forced to either miss school regularly during their menstrual cycle or withdraw altogether given their limited resources and the unsanitary conditions of their schools. Withdrawal from school is often followed by a variety of tragedies ranging from early marriage, to contraction of HIV, to obstructed labor and frequently subsequent obstetric fistula. Research has demonstrated that by preventing withdrawal from school many of these painful outcomes can be prevented. Having personally learned from my research not only the cost of dropping out, but also the increased potential of girls who complete their educations, I am delighted to become a part of the solution. As a complement to the re-useable menstrual pads and other products found in the hygiene kits, I am developing educational materials for the instruction of women and girls regarding their hygiene and the changes that occur during puberty. I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to pilot these materials in Kenya with local women and girls. I am thrilled at the prospect of being engaged in this important work which will truly help eliminate disparities at the ground level; enabling young girls in rural Kenya to have a better chance of becoming educated, healthy members of their society. If you're interested in learning more about our work, please see the "Grow Learn Give" link below. Female literacy, Women and Children's health I am limited by my young married student's funds. I have a degree in Public Health and International Development, beginning my MPH soon.
My Vision for the Future
Working for an organization that promotes women's health and literacy.