Left: Contributed by Jada Hester’s Instagram. Right: Adarsh Puvvadi Ramamohan Kumar/Nubian Message.

Yesenia Jones | Staff Writer

Two NC State students were accepted into the highly competitive WomenNC Scholars program. Jada Hester, a third-year studying business administration and international studies, and Sara Darwish, a third-year studying social work and Arabic, will receive the opportunity to conduct change-making research.

Darwish and Hester will present their research in at WomenNC’s 10th annual Local-to-Global Forum on February 28, 2019. They will also have the opportunity to present at the United Nations Annual Commission on the Status of Women Conference in New York in March 2019.

The WomenNC Scholars program is hosted by the local non-profit, WomenNC. Their mission is to aid NC youth in decreasing violence against women. The non-profit upholds its mission by annually recruiting and accepting a cohort of local college students. Once accepted, these students are afforded the opportunity to conduct research on issues facing women.

Hester, a native of North Carolina, has chosen to focus on the growing wage gap facing women of color in Durham.

“Durham currently has one of the lowest gender pay gaps in the nation. That is, the wage gap between men and women,” Hester said in an email interview. “However, that gap is seemingly only shrinking predominantly for white women. I am looking to explore why is this progression is not applicable to non-white women; and the possible correlation to long-term effects on a woman’s home life.”

She hopes that her research will aid in the creation of a more equal society for women of color in the future.

“As a woman of color that will hopefully be entering the workforce soon, my research pertains to my future,” Hester said. “Of course, it is in my interest, and in the interest of young girls who look like me, to be invested in shrinking the racialized wage gap between white and non-white women.”

Hester’s research may have a significant impact on legislation surrounding the racialized wage gap. She stated that her research will serve as a resource for the Durham County Women’s Commission and Durham Mayor’s Council for Women. Both organizations will use the conclusions of Hester’s research to advocate for policy changes and budget allocations regarding the wage gap.

Darwish has chosen to focus on an issue that women face globally, but still significantly affects female NC State students.

“My research explores barriers to accessing menstrual hygiene products, specifically what barriers students in public higher education face and how this impacts their educational experience,” Darwish said in an email interview.

She stated many menstruating students at NC State wish there was more access to free menstrual products, more locations that sell menstrual products and less stigma surrounding menstruation.

“Being a menstruating person, accessibility barriers and stigma have personally impacted my NC State experience, both in and out of the classroom,” Darwish said. “There have been many times where I’ve had to go without products while in class, on assignment for Technician, or leading a Model UN meeting because there either weren’t products available nearby, or I was afraid of facing backlash in spaces dominated by non-menstruating people.”

Through prior research, she found that there was not much research regarding the subject.

“I wanted to establish verifiable evidence that this was indeed a problem impacting students and receive feedback from the community on the best ways to eliminate the issue,” Darwish said.

Darwish hopes that the evidence she will provide can spark change within the university system and the state of NC.

“The state of North Carolina is among many that tax menstrual hygiene products, but does not tax other items like Viagra,” she said. “It is my hope that this research can be used to advocate for a removal of the tax that currently exists on period products. I also hope that this research will open doors to providing these items to students in our state’s public school system free of charge.”

They recognize that this is a high honor that they hope to receive knowledge and experience from.

“The main thing I hope to gain from this experience is practical and applicable research experience,” Hester said.

Both are excited to present their research at the UN and possibly create lasting change.