In 2012, Katie Durvin was working as a volunteer in Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi, helping refugee students who had been chosen to immigrate to Canada and pursue university studies prepare for their departure and new life in Canada.
But when she wasn’t doing volunteer work, her attention was drawn to the plight of the women and girls living in the camp.
“I saw many women my age or younger who already had several children and were living with complications of childbirth and other debilitating sexual and reproductive health issues,” recalls Durvin, who was a Program Assistant with World University Service of Canada (WUSC). “The availability of sexual and reproductive health services in the camp was very poor, which sparked my interest in women’s health issues.”
That experience prompted Durvin to apply to Carleton’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) with the intention of studying sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“I wanted to investigate how a particular sexual and reproductive health policy had been implemented in different humanitarian emergencies,” says Durvin, who completed a Major Research Project at NPSIA.
“I found that in countries like Chad, Indonesia, Haiti, and Jordan, the level of implementation of the policy often depended on the strength of the national health system and availability of sexual and reproductive health services prior to the crisis. This makes investments in emergency preparedness critical for women and girls.”
Not only did Durvin win a TD Fellowship in Migration and Diaspora Studies, but her research and growing expertise in this area helped her secure a co-op position with Global Affairs Canada (GAC) in the Global Health Policy and Nutrition Division. Upon graduation from NPSIA in December, she was hired to work as a Policy Analyst in the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Division of GAC, where she provides strategic analysis and advice on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“The focus of my master’s research and practical experience in the field really helped me prepare for this position, as I gained a deeper knowledge and understanding of key issues affecting sexual and reproductive health and rights in emergencies,” says Durvin.
“I feel really lucky to be in this role, working on a topic I am passionate about, with fantastic colleagues who have mentored and supported me. I am also incredibly thankful to my professors at Carleton University, who challenged me to become a better writer, thinker and public servant.”
This article was originally published in the June 2016 issue of FPA Voices.