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March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global day to celebrate the achievements of women everywhere, raise awareness about continued discrimination based on gender, and take action to promote gender parity. The Galapagos Initiative is home to incredible female leaders and scientists; since the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) was founded in 2011, over 50 women have led research across more than 74 research projectsToday, we celebrate International Women’s Day with Gina Chowa, the associate dean for global engagement at the UNC School of Social Work.

Headshot of Gina Chowa, speaking at a lectern.

Through the School of Social Work, Gina conducts research about the needs of community members in Galapagos to develop a human-centered approach to addressing those needs. She and her team have piloted two projects focused on the risk and protective factors related to youth pregnancy and violence, including a collaborative social work certification program with USFQ.

“Our research takes on a human centered design to address the needs of the people in the Galapagos,” Gina said. “This is what social work is all about – human centered approaches that provide tools to the people to solve their own problems.” 

Through the field of social work, Gina invests a lot of time in community, both the ones she works with, such as in the Galapagos, and those back home. In reflecting about the important women who have touched her life, Gina turned to her most personal community: her mother and grandmother. 

“Although they are both late now, they demonstrated strength in the face of adversity,” she said. “They grew up in a society where women were not given a chance to thrive, but they both beat the odds and became role models to many women in their communities.” 

To Gina, International Women’s Day is simultaneously a reminder of the many achievements and progress women have made and of the fact that “we still need to harness the strength and determination of women to address the issues of gender equality, violence, and abuse against women.”

“The ten values that guide International Women’s Day are values that I leverage every day in my work: justice, dignity, hope, equality, collaboration, tenacity, appreciation, respect, empathy, and forgiveness,” Gina said.

By Andy Little ‘24

Read our full International Women’s Day story here.

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