Smith College led a Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) symposium in Paris in October in collaboration with the French Ministry of Women’s Affairs on the topic of global health issues and how women’s leadership can make a difference in this field.

Delegates from seventeen countries across francophone Africa, greater Europe, and the United States examined issues of infectious disease, domestic violence, nutrition, and gender disparities as they also built professional networks. “To lead, we must help each other,” said delegate Theresa Kim, of the University of Washington.  

“Whatever their nationality and particular interest in global health, they were focused in their dedication to girls and women,” said Marilyn Schuster, Smith College provost and dean of the faculty. “The participants recognized from their own experience that leadership requires cooperation, sharing resources, ideas, and encouragement.”

The four-day symposium, Women’s Leadership: Public Service and Global Health, was sponsored by Smith and the State Department, with the support of the European Parliament and the French government. Several classroom sessions were held in Smith’s Junior Year Abroad center in Reid Hall in central Paris.

The program was directed by Smith biology professor and Junior Year in Paris director Robert Dorit, who has published extensively on public health issues. Speakers at the event included Nora Berra, former French health official and member of the European Parliament; Farah Pandith, Smith class of 1990 and the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities; Saniye Gülser Corat, director of gender equality, UNESCO; and Denise Silber, Smith class of 1974, international e-health consultant and recipient of the French Legion of Honor for her work in promoting the use of new technologies in health care.  Her Excellency Minister Moushira Khattab, who serves as a WPSP mentor, represented the Wilson Center’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative (GWLI) in Paris. 

The 34 delegates, selected from 170 applications, were physicians, epidemiologists, health educators, and health policy officials. During the conference, delegates attended a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Paris as guests of Susan Tolson, Smith class of 1984 and Director of AMI-American Media Group, and her husband, Ambassador Charles Rivkin.

Dr. Joannie Bewa of Benin on the WPSP workshop:  "Something has changed in me from being here this week. I want to go back to my country and develop mentoring programs for young girls so they too can have the opportunity to grow into leaders."

Dr. Josette Vigon Makong of Benin wrote following the workshop, "Knowing that I am not alone in this exciting adventure of working women inspired me...I am now focusing on a strategy to widely share our results and lessons learned."