Women’s Center advances health and human rights initiatives

Suffolk+Universitys+Center+for+Womens+Health+and+Human+Rights

James Bartlett

Suffolk University’s Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights

Suffolk University’s Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights gained new momentum after a $2 million endowment from an anonymous donor, which will help fund the historic Our Bodies Ourselves initiative. 

The center was founded in 2003 by Professor Amy Agigian, who teaches sociology. It is the ​​first academic initiative in the United States to focus on women’s health as a human rights imperative, said Marisa Kelly in an email to the Suffolk community

“[Our mission is] to advance health and human rights for women and girls everywhere,” said Agigian. “We do that by emphasizing and building on those linkages between women’s health and women’s human rights.”

The center utilizes education, advocacy, research and leadership to advance their interdisciplinary mission, according to its webpage.

Agigian said her personal connection to the global women’s health movement, which includes movements for reproductive justice, universal human rights and universal healthcare, inspired her work at the center.

The $2 million gift will be utilized to launch the center’s Our Bodies Ourselves Today initiative, which will revive the influential 20th-century work of Our Bodies Ourselves.

“We are extremely honored that we are the inheritors of this book and the mission of teaching women and girls and gender expansive people about their bodies, relationships, sexuality, health, all in that feminist context,” said Agigian. 

Our Bodies Ourselves Today will be a global online resource for women and transgender individuals for information about heath and sexuality, which will be cultivated from expert sources in various formats.  

“The idea that you, as a woman, are the expert, the ultimate expert, on your own body, your own sexuality, your own life experience was very much part of the whole ethos [of Our Body Ourselves Today]. So we’re really staying as loyal to that as we can, which means bringing in many, many different perspectives, diverse perspectives and voices,” said Agigian.

Agigian said the center is proud to be at Suffolk, and hopes to be a beacon for women’s rights around the world.

“We want this to become the go-to resource for health and sexuality information for women, girls and gender expansive people all over the world,” she said. “We want this to bring added positive attention and renown to Suffolk, we want this to be something Suffolk is known for around the country and around the world. We want this to be something that is a real point of pride.”

She added that while the endowment was monumental and historic, it has not deterred the center’s fundraising efforts,. Eespecially since the pandemic brought the center’s momentum to a temporary halt.

“[COVID-19] slowed us down,” Agigian said. “We were planning on launching, you know, a year ago and everything got really slowed down. We couldn’t fundraise in the same way that we’d been doing.”

However, with the new endowment and adaptation to a COVID-19 world, the center is pushing forward in its projects and fundraising.

The center is also leading other projects surrounding women’s rights, including Women’s Writing Circles and the Women and Incarceration Project.

Agigian encouraged students to get involved in the center in any way they can, whether it be through a work study, internship, volunteer position or just exploring its library.

The center is located on the 7th floor of 73 Tremont.

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