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  • Women Carrying Water – Strength and number of women faculty set Rollins Center for Global Safe WASH apart

    Excerpted from Rollins Magazine – Spring 2022 Issue:

    Where are the women?

    Dr. Sheela Sinharoy 17G asked herself that in October 2016 at her first water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conference in Chapel Hill, N.C. She felt out of place, which never happened within her field of nutrition and health sciences.

    At the coffee table between sessions, Sinharoy looked for someone who looked like her. “I personally feel safer going up to a woman, and I realized that I had to actively look for a woman to talk to,” recalls the assistant professor of global health. “I never would have had to do that at a nutrition conference.” And she needed to look no further than the conference presentations to see that women and girls were left out of most WASH research. 

    Her experience reflected the historical disconnect in WASH research: the people doing it don’t look like the biggest stakeholders. WASH research began in engineering, when that field was dominated by men. Their studies and interventions often missed or neglected women’s concerns—and those are significant, given that women and girls worldwide are doing the washing, cleaning, caring for children, and preparing food. Each day worldwide UNICEF estimates women and girls spend 200 million hours collecting water. In some countries, women and girls experience restrictions on where and when they can defecate.

    Rollins is addressing those concerns. Sinharoy is among seven female core faculty researchers at the only academic WASH center headed by a woman. They are teaching and leading research that centers women and gender in solving persistent issues of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene. Many are balancing their careers with raising their own children, deepening their connection to families around the world, including those who struggle to secure safe water and sanitation.  


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