By Clarissa Hilber
I interned for WI-HER in the fall of 2019, for two months. The internship has been a great way to expand my knowledge of the public health field and its relation to policy and law, which is my area of focus at university. I worked on the “Act to End NTDs | East Program”, which is led by RTI International and funded by USAID. WI-HER’s role in the project is to lead gender equality and social integration as part of health strengthening. In my role as an intern with WI-HER, I researched the issue of Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) and the obstacles that women, girls, and marginalized populations face to access prevention and treatment services. Although my knowledge of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) was limited, Kelly Dale, my supervisor at WI-HER, helped me find the right resources to inform myself properly. I was even allowed to choose the angle I wanted to take in my research. My first assignment was to conduct a literature review on FGS, policy, and law. The second was a short analysis of the link between FGS, disability, and human rights. Next, I completed a donor landscape to assess why there has been a general lack of financial interest in FGS. Finally, I analyzed the gaps in the literature and thought of several proposals for areas of potential research.
As a result of completing these assignments, I learned a lot about NTD prevention, global health policy, and human rights. I have become well informed about FGS, the gendered aspects of health programming, and women’s lack of access to quality health care. For example, I learned about the stigma that comes with infertility caused by FGS. I was shocked by the lack of knowledge around FGS in endemic countries and therefore the lack of attention and assistance women with FGS receive.
This internship has been a great experience filled with exciting inputs and intellectually challenging tasks. I liked that WI-HER is a woman-run organization that works to improve the lives of women, men, boys, girls, and non-binary individuals everywhere. The people I met were very inspiring and always made me feel that the work I was doing for them was important. This validation is a quality I believe to be unique to the internship with WI-HER.
I want to thank WI-HER and especially Kelly Dale for accompanying me on this journey.