Student Voices
Mar. 06 2017

International Women's Day at Mailman

On International Women's Day, many people will be supporting women's rights by joining A Day Without Women. Across America on March 8, women will be taking the day off from work, people of any gender will be wearing red and abstaining from shopping at large businesses that aren't owned by minorities or women. To recognize the contribution of women to the Mailman School, MPH students profiled women around the campus.

Marlyn Delva, Dean of Students

Marllyn Delva, EdDBefore becoming the Dean of Students at Mailman, Dr. Marlyn Delva was a high school teacher in the Bronx, an Executive Recruiter for high fashion companies, and a CUNY recruitment and admissions officer. Born and raised in New York, the three-time graduate of Columbia University has a passion for students and education that has led her to where she is today.

Delva paused when asked what it meant to her to be a woman. She admittedly said that she’s never really contemplated that part of her identity. She identifies as a woman, but as a person, more often than not her racial identity has taken priority. Born to parents who emigrated from Haiti, Delva grapples with the intersectionality of her identity and what it means to exist as a minority and a woman.

Delva says that being a woman is powerful. It is a gift and an opportunity to push the envelope as a black woman. It means being part of the conversation on how to advance women. There is enormous potential in being a woman that is sometimes untapped.

The most inspirational woman in Delva’s life has been her grandmother. When thinking of what her grandmother has come to mean to her, with tears in her eyes, Delva described her grandmother as a humble woman, who endured lots of struggle, and sacrificed so much of her life to ensure the success of her children.

This year, in honor of International Women’s Day, Delva says she will not be taking the day off, but will be demonstrate solidarity for A Day Without Women by wearing red.

–Janice Desmangles, Population and Family Health, MPH '17

Terry McGovern, Interim Chair of Population and Family Health

Terry McGovern, JDTerry McGovern began her career as a poverty lawyer in New York City. “I saw that low-income individuals and specifically women with HIV were being overlooked,” she says. “So I ended up starting a legal project.”

Founded in 1989, the HIV Law Project first introduced McGovern to the power of public health and began her now over-a-decade-long relationship with Mailman. After a six-year stint in the Gender Rights and Equality Program at the Ford Foundation, she then joined Mailman as a professor, teaching environmental justice and health and human rights, and now heads the Department of Population and Family Health.

In her role as interim chair, she supports Department of Population and Family Health faculty in their research practice and scholarship and ensures that students are prepared to be leaders in their respective fields.

So how will McGovern spend this International Women’s Day? Well, much like she spends most other days, working on women’s rights.

“I take very seriously the issue of mentoring young women and women’s leadership,” she tells me, looking at her calendar, every hour blocked off with student or faculty meetings. “So even though I’d like to strike the whole day, I can’t.”

McGovern does encourage the Mailman community to think globally this Wednesday, given the current public health climate. “At a moment when the Gag Rule has been expanded, it’s a very serious time to be introspective about the U.S.’s role in the world and how we help or hinder women and girls worldwide,” she says.

–Anna Miller, Population and Family Health, MPH '17

Jacqueline Cruz, Hilltop Perk

Jacqueline Cruz, mother and grandmotherIt is 2 p.m. on a Thursday and Jacqueline Cruz has just finished her shift at Hilltop Perk. 13 years ago she changed her work as a home attendant to work at Hilltop Perk in Hammer at Columbia University Medical Campus. She lives close by and enjoys the convenience of being able to walk to work.

Cruz immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic 22 years ago. Working is a wonderful experience for her, which has allow her to be independent and survive in this country, raise her four kids as a single mother, and be spend time with her four grandchildren. Motherhood has been a powerful experience for her that she still enjoys to the fullest.

This year, she will celebrate the International Women’s day from work by raising awareness and wearing red in solidarity with “A Day Without Women”. This day acts as a reminder of the importance of embracing being a woman and cultivating connections with other women because, for Cruz, “being a woman means everything in this life.”

–Isabel Izquierdo Alfaro, Population and Family Health, MPH '17

Raygine DiAquoi, Director of the Office of Diversity, Culture, and Inclusion

Raygine DiAquoi, PhDBefore she was the Director of the Office of Diversity, Culture, and Inclusion, Dr. Raygine DiAquoi was an Equity Consultant and a second grade and middle school teacher.

The  graduate of Harvard University’s School of Education hopes that her position as Director enables her to be a of model courage, caring, and excellence for Mailman students–the very same qualities possessed by her grandmother, whom she credits for where she is today.

“To be a woman is to be extremely powerful,” DiAquoi said after pause and some thought. “It is constantly having to operate within a patriarchal society, being reminded of power, and being constantly aware of the protections you are not afforded.”

When it comes to powerful and inspirational women, DiAquoi thinks of her mother; an immigrant from Haiti, who continues to accomplish, push, reinvent, and evolve.

Her mother’s constant support has changed the trajectory of her life. In second grade, one of DiAquoi’s teachers felt her quiet behavior was a sign that she needed to be placed in special education. DiAquoi’s mother, her fiercest advocate, objected and as a result was able to get DiAquoi placed in advanced courses.

This year in honor of International Women’s Day, DiAquoi will be facilitating a conversation/student panel on Islamophobia and Mental Health for the Mailman community.

–Janice Desmangles, Population and Family Health, MPH '17

Student contributors are MPH candidates in the Sexuality, Sexual, and Reproductive Health Certificate Program or are a friend of the program.

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