Six Texas A&M University (TAMU) students recently participated in a panel discussion about “Gender Equity and Cultural Autonomy: Implications for Sustainable Development” at the inaugural Sustainability and Development conference. The conference was held at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Mich., November 9-11, 2018.
Four presentations comprised the 75-minute discussion moderated by Dr. Manuel Pina Jr. and Tessa Davis, program consultant with the Just Like My Child Foundation. Davis informed about the trajectory and recent evaluation of the Girl Power Project (GPP) with the participating teens in Uganda.
Master’s degree students Lindsey Coleman and Mitchell Baker of the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC) department, and Darienne Davis and Marcus Jenkins of the Bush School of Governance and Public Service (Bush School), reported about a year-long evaluation research of the GPP impact at the community level.
Jaehyun Ahn, an ALEC Ph.D. student, shared findings from recent research about urban and rural females in Ghana, Liberia and Senegal. Jenna Kurten, a Ph.D. student in the department of Anthropology, shared insights about the impact of fertility reduction among indigenous people in Nicaragua.
About 500 scientists from the United States, foreign institutions and universities from all continents of the world presented completed, on-going and projected research related to sustainable development across the planet. Plenary sessions addressed careers and opportun
ities in sustainable development and gender inequality, as well as food security. Many concurrent sessions were consistent with the TAMU panel discussion.
Davis spoke about the trajectory and successes of empowering teen girls and boys through the GPP in Uganda. The GPP program offers trainings in 72 schools in the Luwero Triangle where they have reached over 4,000 girls and community members over the past 12 years.
Coleman reported key community-level impacts based on a two month in-country evaluation of the GPP where she, Baker, Davis and Jenkins collected 2,669 responses to nine questions from 143 members of seven stakeholder groups in 17 communities. Ahn pointed out the disparity in education, health and legal services between females in urban and rural areas in Ghana, Liberia and Senegal.
Kurten provided insight to the impact of fertility reduction on the culture of two indigenous peoples in Nicaragua. The panel presentations generated lively discussions among the 30 participants in the room. It became clear that the central topic of the panel discussion is a complicated one with no easy options to address.
The discussions also highlighted the importance of taking into account the history of developing nations, prevailing norms and customs and potential unanticipated outcomes from development projects.
Faculty advisors for the GPP evaluation research were Dr. Piña of the ALEC department, and Silva Hamie of the Bush School.