My interest in development began in high school, while I was working part-time in an organic supermarket. My coworkers and I would often discuss the issue of inequality, especially framed in terms of environmental sustainability, gender disparities, and international development efforts. As I became increasingly aware of the poverty and injustice that existed in the world, I realized that I had to make a sincere effort to use what I had been given in life to affect positive change through sustainable development.
Coming to BYU, I was disappointed to find there was no international development major; however, I settled into public health education due to the classes in international and environmental health, as well as the elective course IAS 220 (Introduction to International Development). Perhaps the most important aspect of public health as it relates to development is the goal of reducing health disparities that occur as a result of other inequalities created by the complex web of human existence. As an international development minor, I have discovered there is a place and a need for people from all backgrounds and majors to contribute their efforts to achieve successful, sustainable international development.
After taking a class on women’s health issues, I developed a keen interest in gender as it relates to international development and became involved with the WomanStats project, which researches the correlation between international security and gender disparity. The WomanStats database, compiled and continually updated and expanded by research assistants, is the largest and most comprehensive source for qualitative and quantitative information on the status of women in the world (See http://womanstats.org).
In my work with the project, I have interviewed NGO leaders and country experts worldwide and expanded my knowledge through close readings of countless reports, further enhancing my understanding of gender and health as they relate to sustainable international development.
“Human development is about expanding the choices people have to lead lives that they value. Fundamental to enlarging these choices is building human capabilities, the range of things that people can do or be in life.”
United Nations, Human Development Report, 2001
This summer, I am looking forward to two international development-related internships abroad. My first internship will be in Mali with the Ouelessebougou-Utah Alliance, where I will be helping with the translation and implementation of an HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention intervention manual. More specifically, my role will be to facilitate training of the local health workers in terms of clarifying and improving the translation, as well as helping the workers understand how to use the manual as an aid in communicating with the local people. In addition, I will gain valuable experience in baseline data collection for several health interventions that are currently running in over fifteen villages in Mali.
My second internship will be working with University of Liverpool public health experts to facilitate an international development project being conducted entirely by locals in Guatemala. This project is aimed at encouraging women to take advantage of the local healthcare opportunities available to them and their children.
As I approached graduation, I was surprised at the number and diversity of jobs that became available to me as a direct result of my international development minor. For now, I plan to gain more experience in order to improve the organizations I work with by acting as a liaison between the administrative and field sides of development efforts so as to promote better communication and, therefore, more effective sustainable development.
Finnigan graduated in April with a BS in public health education.