In a competitive application process, two University of Kentucky graduate students, Ibitola Asaolu and Chioma Okafor, were selected as delegates to the Commission on the Status of Women review meeting held in the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
Asaolu and Okafor were among 15 practicum delegates of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), a 98-year-old organization recently nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.
Asaolu and Okafor graduated in May 2013 their Master’s of Public Health with Graduate Certificates in Global Health and participated in the program as part of their practicum requirement.
The aim of their practicum was to “assist with the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls and rewview the equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women, including caregiving, in the context of HIV/AIDS.”
During their time in New York, Asaolu and Okafor participated in discussions and presentations that highlighted how women and girls are being abused in domestic and international settings and the numerous approaches to prevent such abuse.
They also had the opportunity to meet with various stakeholders of the organization, including Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile.
In the conference, Asaolu and Okafor voiced their opinions regarding the lack of young adult representation, insufficient number of research studies to evaluate these programs, underrepresentation of local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) addressing the issue of violence against women in the United State and the stong divide between the academia and the policy worlds.
During the remaining of their stay, Asaolu and Okafor attended different events organized by local and international non-governmental organizations, ambassador, government officials and the representatives of the World Health Organization and the United Nations.
Asaolu and Okafor particularly focused on ways to help prevent violence against women both locally and globally, such as engaging girls in sports, improving access to water, distinguishing between culture and religion and mobilizing against cruel cultural practices.
After the conference, Asaolu and Okafor identified a number of changes that they wanted to make at the University, including as a new partnership with the Violence and Intervention Prevention (VIP) Center to increase student awareness of violent practices against women all over the world.