At the end of October, the University of North Carolina held its annual Water and Health Conference, and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to both attend and present at the conference.

I have been anticipating this conference ever since I learned about it from my Kellogg International Scholars Program (ISP) adviser, Ellis Adjei Adams, last year. I selected my major and minor, chemical engineering and poverty studies, because of my interest in water sanitation and security issues, so this conference was a perfect fit for me.  Attending the UNC Water and Health Conference allowed me to get a first-hand look at the workings of academia and policy in the water space, being able to watch presentations from professors, non-profit founders, and government workers.

Throughout the course of the conference, I was able to select from a wide variety of water-related session topics. This allowed me to learn about water treatment, women empowerment in WASH, the United Nations WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) agenda, and the effect of climate change on water resources all while connecting with amazing WASH professionals. The conference offered several opportunities to network with others interested in water and global health, so I was able to meet many inspiring individuals. My favorite session that I attended was Beyond Access: Designing WASH Programming to Strengthen Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment, as I was able to learn about various programs that are already in place and making huge strides around the world. I am passionate about many human-rights issues, so it was fascinating to see how improving WASH access could also improve women’s rights.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was presenting at the poster session. Here, I presented one of my ISP adviser’s projects, Water Journeys: Using Walking Interviews and Videos to Explore Water Fetching Risks in Urban Environments. I loved explaining the work Prof. Adjei Adams and I do through the Kellogg ISP program and answering questions about this specific project on water fetching journeys. Additionally, I believe the experience of designing a poster will be incredibly beneficial for my future.

Overall, attending the UNC Water and Health Conference was an incredibly illuminating experience. Not only did I learn more about a number of issues in the water-sector, but I also met amazing WASH professionals, was re-inspired to take action fighting against water injustices, and was able to present and teach others.