Fulfilling My Potential: Pursuing Higher Education to Support Women’s Rights
United States of America
Serving as a 2015-16 Global Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) has been one of the biggest blessings for me. It all started when I was a teenager who was deeply passionate about volunteering, community service and helping others. This passion stemmed from a desire to be part of something bigger than myself; to contribute to society in whatever ways I could; and to fulfil my vision of living a meaningful life. The more I volunteered, the better I felt about my place in the community. And, for an awkward, insecure teenage girl desperately trying to find her place in the world, this was no easy feat.
Throughout high school and college, I sought opportunities to be involved in community service activities, with my identity gradually being shaped by the interesting and diverse people I met, the projects I worked on, and the value I felt I was providing. While I have always considered myself to be a good student, one who completed her schoolwork on time, earned high marks and grades, and who loved to learn, I was also struggling to find direction for my life, one that would allow me to combine helping others with a decent living. I embraced psychology, thinking that becoming a counsellor or therapist was the right path. However, I knew in my heart that I wanted to have an impact that went far beyond helping individual clients and patients, to entire demographics and populations. This desire steered me towards the field of global health.
In graduate school, I learned about epidemiology, biostatistics, nutrition, environmental health, health systems, project management in public health, and much more. Little did I know that with every course, every project I completed and every paper I wrote, I was honing in on my true passion for human rights, specifically women’s rights. With each opportunity to undertake an independent project or write a research paper, I gravitated towards topics that resonated with me on a much deeper level than I realized, topics that focused on the rights (or lack of rights) of girls and women around the world. The fervour in which I researched and wrote about female genital mutilation or learned about human trafficking underscored my determination to alleviate these human rights abuses in my own career.
After graduating, working in several jobs in the non-profit sector, and continuing to volunteer with various organizations, I learned about the United Nations Women’s Empower Women platform in the summer of 2015. It felt like I had found my home. On the platform, I interacted with women and men from all points of the globe where we could share our passions, ideas, values, beliefs and discussions on WEE in a safe, non-judgmental environment. I felt a sense of purpose and fulfillment that I hadn’t felt for many years; a feeling that I was yearning for in my career but which had constantly evaded me.
As my Global Championship wrapped up this summer, I am fortunate that it led me to the door that I believe was always meant to open for me. This September, I am excited to start my Master of Science degree in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where I plan to focus my research on gender equality. I hope to learn about human rights issues in domestic and international settings and how various demographics are affected by traditions; laws; practices; societal, religious, and cultural norms and values; and other nuances that promote or hinder their human rights. While I will work hard to carve out a niche for myself in the women’s rights arena after graduating, I am confident that this is the puzzle piece I’ve been missing all along. Thank you, Empower Women!