For the past two summers, I have worked with and NGO called WISER (Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research), a social empowerment program for underprivileged girls in rural Kenya. The structural violence that these young women experience, surrounding abusive schooling systems and predatory adults, is an immense burden to face. The WISER program and the work I did there taught me about the power of opportunity, and deeply instilled in me the critical relationship between gender-safe education, enhanced social autonomy, and improved health outcomes for girls. Every day I found a different reason to be astounded by the dedication and resourcefulness with which young women pursued their education. My work with WISER centered around supporting health initiatives that tap into the inherent strength of communities, and allowing narratives of what girls can accomplish to be changed by the actions and dreams of the women themselves. This experience solidified my determination to pursue a career understanding and reducing gender inequalities in health and education with a lens of equity and valued community participation. I see this opportunity to construct a policy brief that calls for the installation of more widespread and nuanced “Safe Haven” legislation in North Carolina as an opportunity to place the agency and social autonomy that is removed in the circumstance of domestic violence while being labeled as an illegal citizen. There is an opportunity here for North Carolina to stand up for women who face injustices in their lives, and to provide them the basic human right of safety and protection from harm.
- Madelaine Katz