November 8, 2023

By Cesar Fernandez, UNA-NCA Program Assistant

On October 28th, 2023, the UNA-NCA Young Professionals (YP) Program hosted their semi-annual Career Dinner Series. This in-person series focused on Careers in the United Nations, International Law, Human Rights, Gender Equality and Advocacy, and Technology for Development. Part of the Young Professionals Career Dinner Series, discussions featured various professional individuals working in these respective fields. The speakers within this event offered inspirational guidance toward students and young professionals, sharing important perspectives and personal stories with respect to their fields.

UNA-NCA President, Paula Boland, started off the event by expressing personal remarks and the objectives of the Young Professionals’ Career Dinner Series, stating that this event “serves as an opportunity (for young professionals) to speak with mid to senior-level employees within a desired field to gain valuable insight into specific career paths.” Ms. Boland then went on to pinpoint the focus of the event’s panel on careers such as international affairs or human rights. Lastly, she introduced and thanked the primary keynote speakers of the series, Dr. Roopa Dhatt and Ms. Sarah Craven.

Dr. Roopa Dhatt was the first keynote speaker to be introduced at the event. Dr. Dhatt is a Co-Founder and the Executive Director of Women in Global Health, an international female-led movement pushing for gender equality and women’s leadership in the global health environment. Active in more than ninety countries with fifty-plus chapters worldwide, her organization addresses important aspects of women in power and roles of leadership with respect to global health. After working in this field for nearly fifteen years and collaborating with over one-hundred-twenty countries, she continues to engage herself in numerous advisory and board roles today. Along with Women in Global Health, she advises multiple health institutions on issues of the medical workforce, gender equity, and universal health coverage. Moreover, Dr. Dhatt was on the Lancet COVID-19 Commission, was a former W7 Germany Advisor, and is a current W7 Japan Advisor on advocating feminist agendas to other G7 governments. Serving as a member of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Scientific Advisory Board, she was invited as a public delegate with the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations’ 65th Commission on the Status of Women in March of 2021, which was led by Vice President Kamala Harris. Her work has been published in the Lancet, British Medical Journal (BMJ), Devex, and Forbes. Furthermore, Dhatt has been interviewed by National Geographic, Nature, NPR, EuroNews, and numerous other media outlets both home and abroad.

First moving to the United States as an immigrant from India when she was only five years old, Dr. Dhatt came to witness that there was an immense lack of female representation in the field of international health. As she put it in her remarks: “women have never received the opportunity to obtain equal power, equal respect, or equal roles of leadership in the realm of international health.” Dr. Dhatt then went on to state the main points of her discourse, talking specifically about SDG 3 and SDG 5 from the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) list, which was created by the United Nations in 2015. The SDGs are a collection of various interlinked objectives designed to serve as an international blueprint for peace and prosperity for the people and our planet. According to her, SDG 3 consists of maintaining good health and well-being for individuals worldwide, with an aim to achieve universal healthcare and eliminate certain forms of global disease by 2030. SDG 5 on the other hand pushes for gender equality on a worldwide scale, and Dr. Dhatt desires to see this goal further implemented for women and young girls who are pursuing professional careers in global health today.

In providing her closing remarks, Dr. Dhatt stressed that if we do not push for such change on a global level, then this systemic issue of gender inequality within the global health environment, or in general, will never improve. In addition, the principle of “women power leadership” can only be reached through collective action such as the organized discussions held by this event. Following Dr. Roopa Dhatt, UNA-NCA’s Vice Chair of Young Professionals, Lanice C. Williams, went on to introduce the next keynote speaker, Ms. Sarah Craven. The Director of UNFPA’s Washington D.C. office, Sarah Craven works with both national and world leaders on supporting essential sexual and reproductive health issues for women and young girls. Since starting her work with the United Nations’ Sexual and Reproductive Health Agency in 1998, Ms. Craven has led numerous campaigns worldwide for female’s reproductive rights and legislation regarding equal access to health resources for women and young girls.

Beginning her global health journey under Democratic (CO) Senator Tim Wirth of the U.S. Senate, Ms. Craven went forth to tackle issues of reproductive rights in areas such as the United Kingdom and Gaza. She played a crucial role in initiating the “Safe Birth Even Here” program with UNFPA, a health campaign aimed at ending preventable maternal deaths, raising public awareness about the alarming rate of maternal deaths in emergency settings, and increasing protection for the rights of women and girls living in such dangerous environments. In addition, this UNFPA program provides Safe Delivery Kits if needed in order to properly deliver children in certain emergency situations. According to Ms. Craven, these delivery kits include the following necessities: fresh soap, a sterile plastic sheet, a clean razor blade, an umbilical cord tie, a blanket, and latex gloves. These are the necessary supplies required to prevent infection during childbirth, as it is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality worldwide. To Ms. Craven, she deeply expressed her fortune and gratitude for being able to take part in such an important innovation that can truly save lives.

Similarly to the remarks made earlier by Dr. Dhatt, Ms. Craven further urged the need for achieving both Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 and 5. She strongly expressed that there must be gender equality and respectful treatment on a global level, particularly for the international field of health as Dr. Dhatt discussed. Going off of Sustainable Development Goal 5, Ms. Craven went on to talk about the “Three Zeros” as she put it. The “Three Zeros” objective refers to UNFPA’s goal of reaching its three transformative results by 2030, such as that of the SDGs for the United Nations. The first is having a safe and affordable method of contraception for people around the world. The second is ending maternal mortality through safe delivery resources, training for medical assistants, and the creation of adequate health centers. The third and most difficult goal is putting an end to gender-based violence, as well as formulating campaigns with UNICEF to end female genital mutilation and prevent early marriages with children. As Ms. Craven stated in her remarks, these objectives are a crucial step in the right direction for equal representation in the workplace for both current and future female health workers, and for the proper implementation of human rights for women and girls worldwide.

To summarize the closing remarks from both Ms. Craven and Dr. Dhatt, they were certainly in agreement that the time to act is now, and that change can only be obtained through global mobilization and collectivity. Furthermore, the needs of women and young girls within the global health environment must be prioritized indefinitely. As Ms. Craven put it in her closing words, female health practitioners today are “first featured, yet last funded”, with a major lack of female representation and advocacy in today’s health workplace as we’ve discussed. For Ms. Sarah Craven and Dr. Roopa Dhatt, the challenges of today must be addressed and overcome for a better tomorrow.

After hearing such wonderful experiences and remarks from both keynote speakers, the event’s presenters and attendees were thanked for their participation by UNA-NCA President Ms. Paula Boland and Young Professionals’ Vice Chair Ms. Lanice Williams. In concluding the initial panel, Ms. Williams went forth to introduce the rest of the career programs for the night, and dismissed each group of attendees and speakers to their respective programs.

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