In Fall 2011, two UC Davis students and best friends Liz Johnson and Sarah Yang founded the Women’s Health Initiative Club at UC Davis. The club has presented sex education to several schools in Yolo County, as well as donated and fundraised for the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center (SADVC) in Woodland.
“The Women’s Health [Initiative] Club focuses on informing the community on women’s health-related issues, and offering support to women and girls who have been sexually assaulted,” said Parisa Esfahani, a first-year creative writing major and member of the club.
The club works with CommuniCare, a Davis teen clinic, to train the club members in presenting sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and birth-control awareness in high schools and middle schools around Yolo County. They also work with the SADVC, where they volunteer and raise money for their club’s events and the shelter.
“Working with these two establishments also helps the members of the club gain experience working in environments where women have gone through domestic abuse or need a place to go,” said Melissa Dittrich, a first-year English major and member of the club.
Sex education presentations for middle schools and high schools occur once a month.
“We have found that the pregnancy presentations we give at Davis High School are not as effective as other high schools around Davis. The students at Davis already have health care coverage and do not have problems with rising pregnancy rates,” Yang said.
Yang, a fourth-year neurology, physiology and behavior and sexuality studies double major, and Johnson, a sixth-year managerial economics major, said that there needs to be more focus on sex education in schools around Yolo County instead of Davis itself.
“In other high schools in Yolo County, I have presented while there has been a pregnant student sitting in class. Davis High School is pretty affluent in comparison,” Johnson said.
Out of the 30 club members, there are three males.
“It [the club] really opened my eyes to many of the hardships some women have to go through and all I wanted to do was to be able to help somehow,” said Richard Galvin, a fourth-year managerial economics major and club member. “I was raised by a single mother and have always been really close with her, and it was always hard to see how much she had to deal with and persevere through to raise my two brothers and me. I know that many women experience even worse than her, so I really want to do anything that I can to help.”
The club generally does one project per quarter. For the upcoming spring quarter, its plan is to coordinate “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” an event in which men will walk a mile around the City of Davis in high heels.
The event is open for the public to participate. Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is a national organization that will sponsor the event by donating high heels in men’s sizes to raise awareness for sexual violence.
“I’m planning on getting both the rugby team and my work at the ASUCD Coffee House involved in this event. I’m also hoping to get some of the other sports teams on campus to get involved as well,” Galvin said.
So far, the club has done “Baskets of Love” with the SADVC in May 2012. Curves, a fitness program for women, donated soap, lotion, makeup and nail polish for homeless women on Mother’s Day. The club has also held a clothing drive this past winter quarter for homeless women.
“Usually people start clubs because they need credit or it will be good for their resume, but all of us wanted volunteer opportunities to do something good for the community. I think we have really started something out of nothing here,” Johnson said.
MELISSA GAHERTY can be reached at email@example.com.