Through a coincidental re-connection and the power of networking, Professor of Management Eileen Kwesiga, Ph.D., recently experienced a breakthrough that offers a global platform for her scholarship on the topic of sustainable development.
“My work and research is motivated by the U.N.’s mandated sustainability development goals. I’m very interested in how can we put systems in place that respect all in our environment, that leaves no one behind."
While in Africa last summer during her sabbatical, Kwesiga by coincidence was re-acquainted with a high school friend who now runs Kenya's largest advocacy group for sex workers. “The organization was looking for a scholar to bring the issue of stigmatized work in Kenya before the United Nations and other bodies, to raise visibility of the inhumane treatment the workers experience, and to discuss – yes, it’s a human rights issue, a health issue, and a right-to-work issue as well – if this is how they choose to work,” says Kwesiga. "It's also an issue of poverty, as many of the women are driven to this work due to a lack of income."
The project to raise visibility spoke directly to Kwesiga's interest in sustainability. “My work and research is motivated by the U.N.’s mandated sustainability development goals. I’m very interested in how can we put systems in place that respect all in our environment, that leave no one behind. I’m also very interested in women's empowerment and women's issues, especially gender violence,” said Kwesiga. So she decided to collaborate.
Through her connections at the U.N., Kwesiga quickly formed a powerful partnership that is bringing visibility to the issue. Among her partners is Liza Sekaggya, a Human Rights Officer at the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Sekaggya recognized Kwesiga's scholarship in sustainability and global communities as well as the importance of the issue of stigmatized work. She invited Kwesiga to speak last September at the Phenomenal Women's Conference in Geneva. Continued networking within the U.N. and with scholars in European universities has garnered an invitation to help create a U.N. conference dedicated to the issue of stigmatized work. The conference, expected to be held in September 2019, will highlight the experiences and voices of women, with the hope of cultivating awareness of the issues.
Traveling the world to build knowledge, capacity, and connections is just one way Kwesiga has a global impact as a scholar and researcher – one she hopes benefits her students as well. The partnerships she has cultivated in the course of conducting her research enable students in her service-learning courses to gain experience with issues surrounding sustainability. And her field work informs how she teaches and discusses sustainability development with her students.
"That’s why we teach our students this information," Kwesiga says. "They will be managers, so they have to understand what it means to truly respect the environment and people, so that we have something to hand off to the next generation.”