Senior Lauren Zalla receives Davis Projects for Peace Award
For the summer of 2012, Duke senior Lauren Zalla will undertake a project that addresses an immediate and life-changing need for Haitian women: the lack of access to sanitary materials. Lauren has recently won the Davis Projects for Peace Award, which provides $10,000 to a recipient to design and carry out a grassroots project for the summer of 2012. The purpose is to encourage students to creatively find ways to promote peace and conflict resolution in countries around the world.
This summer, Lauren will be travelling to Léogâne, Haiti with the purpose of training women to manufacture reusable sanitary pads and lay the grassroots for a sexual education program for both adolescents and members of the community. After spending two months in Haiti during the summer of 2011, Lauren recognized the need for proper sexual education in local communities where miscommunication and myths help contribute to high pregnancy rates among teenage girls and a high risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.
In her proposal, Lauren writes, “For a girl in Haiti, the period of puberty often determines the rest of her life. She may become pregnant because she never learned safe sex practices. This project recognizes that puberty is a crucial point of intervention, and aims to educate each girl about her changing body and arm her with the knowledge and confidence to imagine and create her own future, rather than leaving it up to chance.”
As part of her project, Lauren will work with NEGES, a grassroots Haitian organization focused on education, economic development and environmental sustainability. In addition to training women to manufacture reusable sanitary pads, Lauren will organize sex education workshops and peer advocacy networks for youth groups and for adults in the community.
She believes that involving parents and community members in the education will spark dialogue that can raise awareness about the need to educate young adults about proper sexual practices and encourage young women to take care of their own bodies. By drawing on the skills of the women she will be training and from the support of local community members, Lauren hopes to create a sustainable project that empowers women and gives them the resources to strive for a brighter future.
Lauren is currently a senior writing a thesis on the history and culture of breastfeeding in Haiti. She speaks fluent Haitian Creole and has collaborated with the Haiti Lab on several projects. For more information, you can find Lauren’s profile on the Franklin Humanities Institute website.