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A Voice for Change

Public Health Major Wants to Improve Life for African Women and Children

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 25, 2017) — Senior Jennifer Abu’s first-hand view of the injustices confronting African women and children has pushed her to pursue a career in public health and to start an advocacy forum.

Abu, set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s of science in Public Health and a minor in Africana Studies, founded the organization Women and Children’s Rights in Africa (WACRIA) as a platform as an awareness and advocacy platform.

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Jennifer Abu, founder of the student group Women and Children’s Rights in Africa, poses on the Brooklyn Bridge.

“I was born and raised in Nigeria and was exposed to the different injustices that women and children face, and my exposure has propelled me to study public health and use my voice as a tool to combat these injustices,” said Abu, whose family moved to the United States in 2005. “I created Women and Children's Rights in Africa is to advocate for the furtherance of the rights and societal statuses of women and children in Africa and the African diaspora.”

In the spring 2017, WACRIA became an officially established organization at UAlbany, with more than 20 members. WACRIA advocates on the basis of health, education and human rights, and is focused on of encouraging the progression of the African Renaissance — the movement to alleviate poverty, violence and corruption in Africa.

WACRIA created The Bring Back Our Girls Campaign to raise awareness of Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 girls in the town of Chibok, Nigeria. Abu, WACRIA’s president, and Vice President Olivia Robinson interviewed University faculty and students about their perceptions of the Boko Haram abductions.

They videotaped their discussions with members of the University community, including Ekow King, the director of Intercultural Engagement; David Agum and Amanishakete Ani, both of the Department of Africana Studies; Khalafalla M. Osman, president of the Muslim Student Association; Walter E. Little, associate professor of Anthropology; Amberly Carter, program coordinator of the Multicultural Resource Center; and members of the University chapter of the National Congress of Black Women.

The videos were shared on Facebook, Vimeo and WACRIA’s blog.

WACRIA also promotes activities and programs on campus that push for education, health and human rights. Abu and Roberts recently spoke on a panel for a “Black Girl Magic” program run by the Nefer Rohu, the Africana Graduate and Professional Students Organization of the University at Albany, and the National Congress of Black Women. The discussion focused on ways that modern black women can overcome oppressive forces of society and the importance of women of color lifting each other up through tough times.

WACRIA uses its website as well as Instagram and Twitter as platforms for the UAlbany and wider community to express themselves artistically.

“We use social media to embrace African culture through artistic means such as storytelling, visual arts and creative writing,” Abu said. “Our long term goal is to establish WACRIA on different universities in the nation and abroad.”

Abu served as an intern with UAlbany’s Global Institute for Health and Human Rights. After graduation, she plans a career in public health, focusing on issues that affect developing nations — infectious diseases, maternal and infant mortality, and sexual health.

“My dream is to build a free educational and health clinic in my village, Otukpa, Benue State in Nigeria for families in need,” Abu said.

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