This month we celebrate Isa van der Drift, a 2019-2020 WomenNC Scholar!
Last year, WomenNC scholar Isa van der Drift aligned her interests in gender issues and reproductive health with applied research through her project, Barriers to Reproductive Health Education and Economic Empowerment in Durham, North Carolina. Using comparative analysis, Isa researched young women’s access to reproductive health resources in Durham, NC, and then compared it to those of Little Rock, AR and Nashville, TN, similarly sized cities located in the South.
Just as important as Isa’s research into the intersection of economic empowerment with reproductive health access were the specific policy solutions she devised to improve the status quo and the advocacy in which she engaged, allowing her to, “do something that has impact and not [simply a] bird’s eye view approach to [gender] issues.”
Isa was mentored on her project by RTI’s Research Public Health Analyst, Jacqueline Ndirangu whose own research interests include addressing factors that influence disease prevention and health promotion among women in developing countries. Isa is grateful for her “femtor” and her wealth of knowledge in the field. Their discussions helped her develop an ambitious yet realistic scope for the project that allowed her to better understand the relationship between economics and reproductive health and develop a research design with both a policy and advocacy agenda in service to the young women of Durham.
Thanks to her time as a WomenNC scholar, upon graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Peace, War, and Defense and Arab Cultures, Isa’s job search led her back to RTI International. She is currently an intern with the Global Gender Center and the Substance Use, Gender, and Applied Research (SUGAR) team, interacting with many friendly and familiar faces she came to know as a WomenNC scholar. Isa’s varied work includes event planning, creating social media and blog posts, phone surveying, and data analysis– all of which she says is “engaging and exciting work!”
Isa has some good advice for aspiring advocates and guidance for navigating this tumultuous time:
While the world feels super overwhelming and everything is wrong, [know] that you can’t address all issues. Find the thing you’re passionate about fixing and do it – it is okay that [it might be] small. It can be paralyzing to try to fix everything. Step back and focus on tangible things. I’m absorbing and learning and doing stuff in my own way.
WomenNC offers scholars the opportunity to do just this: participate in a leadership training program that allows them to find, focus, and then research an issue they care deeply about—and want to fix—under the guidance of a research mentor. Then, armed with facts and knowledge, they set about crafting policy to present and lead the next generation in advocacy work that honors women’s human rights.
Isa is looking forward to helping welcome a new class of WomenNC scholars who seek to improve the lives of women and girls. She has been inspired to change the world by the innovative research, presentations, and advocacy work of scholars past and present. “Every year they get cooler!;” So, what comes next?