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York Students First Few Weeks at CPAR!

It's been a few weeks since York University students, Lydia, Sara, Aisha and Dior joined CPAR. Here's what they have to say about their first few weeks:

Sara:
My current project involves supporting youth group initiatives and simultaneously enhancing the Ethiopian federal curriculum on health promotion and education. This idea was proposed by Mark Loewenberger (CPAR’s Ethiopian Program Coordinator) with the assistance of Mastewal, who is based in Ethiopia. My project partner and I have met with Mastewal on one occasion through Zoom. She provides more detailed insight on the existing state of sexual reproductive health (SRH) in the Amhara and Oromia regions, and its relationship to Ethiopian culture, religion, and traditions. She helped me gain an understanding of the true burden of that the lack of quality SRH services in Ethiopia has on women and girls, that cannot be depicted by research alone. She highlighted the importance of religious influence in SRH education and awareness. Given that both regions are predominantly Christian or Muslim, Mastewal stressed the importance of utilizing religious leaders within our potential SRH learning aids. On the other hand, religion in Ethiopia can act as a driver to support our work on SRH issues. Early child marriage is often a result of religious beliefs prohibiting premarital sexual activity and is seen as a protective measure. Unfortunately, this simultaneously increases a girl’s chances of acquiring HIV/AIDS and other debilitating illnesses. Within my work during this practicum, I hope to reduce the number of girls who drop out of school due to the practice of early childhood marriage. Not only does this practice significantly limit a girl’s ability to continue their education, early child marriage has significant implications for susceptibility to obstetric fistula development. One of my goals with CPAR is to spread awareness about the risks and dangers of early child marriage and consequently keep more girls in school. Through the context specific identification of needs from Mastewal, coupled with the readings, at this current stage I have begun brainstorming possible educational aids/tools for some Ethiopian regions. In the development of theses aids, it is crucial that I keep in mind the numerous barriers to reaching all portions of the population such as educational gaps and rurality of certain areas.
My Ethiopian background heavily influences how I view and will experience my work with this project. Not only does this naturally increase my desire and passion to help, but it also serves as a tool through my awareness and knowledge of culture sensitive issues. This is important as it may influence the learning aid development and implementation process as it is crucial I take into account the differences between the two regions we are working in in Ethiopia.
 
 
Lydia:
Hello everyone! As we quickly approach the midpoint of my practicum, I am left wondering where has the time gone?! Throughout the past few weeks, I have learned a lot about CPAR’s Enhancing Sexual and Reproductive Health for Women and Adolescents (ESWA) project. Through discussions with CPAR staff, I have gained a lot of insight on some of the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) challenges that young girls in Ethiopia face. For instance, I have learned that early child marriage continues to be a prevalent issue. Given that I have had the opportunity and privilege to continue my studies to the post-secondary level, I am very passionate about advocating for young girls in Ethiopia to receive the same opportunity. Mitigating early child marriage can lower the prevalence of gender-based violence and obstetric fistulas among young girls. Although early child marriage is a culturally ingrained practice, it is often a trickle-down factor of poor socio-economic status. As a result, I believe this issue can be addressed through strategic upstream approaches that focus on education continuation and women empowerment within the community.
In addition, I love that I get to work with inspiring women leaders such as Mastewal, CPAR’s Senior SRH Officer. Through many conversations with Mastewal, I find myself very motivated by her triumphs as a woman in Ethiopia’s health sector. Her determination to improve the sexual and reproductive health of young girls in the community is so important.  Ultimately, as a Global Health major, CPAR has made me feel very empowered in using my knowledge to facilitate important discussions about sexual and reproductive health. In particular, I recently had a very meaningful discussion with Mastewal and Gezzu (CPAR’s Regional Officer Coordinator) to brainstorm feasible health promotion strategies. So far, I am very happy with my progress in the practicum and I can’t wait to start drafting a health promotion strategy that provides young girls the opportunity to follow their dreams and aspirations.
 

Aisha:
The past few weeks of my practicum at CPAR have flown by more quickly than I had anticipated. Learning about CPAR’s projects has been extremely fascinating! Understanding how CPAR works with health professionals, vulnerable communities, local organizations and governments to strengthen health system capacity has been an eye-opening experience as I learn about the importance of a community-centered development approach.
As I complete my degree in Global Health and work on my projects at CPAR, I have developed my understanding of well-being from the social determinants of health perspective and I have realized the need for an interdisciplinary approach to tackle societal structures that contribute to individual problems. Working on projects for CPAR, I am developing my understanding of how the broader personal, social, economic, and political factors influence an individual's well-being. As the life course theory explains, we are all unique due to our past experiences. I recognize the importance of understanding how unique life experiences and intersecting identities can impact an individual’s health. I look forward to the next few weeks of my practicum during which I hope to continue to learn and grow my understanding.
 

Dior:
My first month at CPAR so far has been great, and I have learned so much over the past few weeks. My first two weeks consisted mostly of orientation and introductions to my supervisors. I was also assigned a project that I would be working on. My supervisors and I had several meetings in which they explained my responsibilities and expectations during the practicum. After getting settled in and getting a clear idea of what I would be working on, I started working on my project. The first part of the project consisted of research in which I had to research how organizations recognize and appreciate their Donors. It was a bit of a challenge because most organizations don’t have donor stewardship information on their websites. With the information I gathered from the different organizations and my research, I was able to develop different ideas for my project. I am now working on the second part of my project, which includes working on a Communication Plan and creating different templates and content for CPAR. I look forward to working on the Communication Plan, but I am a bit nervous about how it will turn out because I have never worked on one before. Still, my supervisor has been very helpful in keeping me on track and responding to any concerns that I might have, so I am sure I will successfully create a Communication Plan with her help. I am also very excited to start creating content and designing templates for CPAR because I get to fully conceptualize something from start to finish!