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Lehigh Carbon Community College

Dr. Namalie Jayasinghe talked about solutions to poverty during the March 14 Community Gathering. Photo by Jeff Reed

Oxfam America’s gender and women’s rights researcher Dr. Namalie Jayasinghe cast a hopeful light over the world’s most vulnerable populations at this month’s Community Gathering.

Addressing Reinhardt University students, faculty and staff in the Hill Freeman Library Community Room, Jayasinghe presented “An Introduction to the Good Work of Oxfam America,” explaining how international organizations actively support those in need and how to get involved.

Dr. Jayasinghe worked in West Africa, Sri Lanka and the Gulf Coast of the U.S., among other locations, before assuming her current position with Oxfam America, an international non-governmental organization. Jayasinghe’s research empowers women to impact the global decisions that affect them.

“I feel like I’m actually part of a movement to move this world to a more gender-equal, gender-sensitive world,” said Jayasinghe. “It could be in a really small way, but I do think that I’m actually reaching out to people and helping at least a few to hopefully live in an environment that’s safer and more cohesive.”

Poverty is manmade and, therefore, avoidable, said Dr. Jayasinghe. To change something, however, one must first understand it. Her research helps Oxfam America identify—and then remove—factors shackling people in poverty.

Dr. Jayasinghe proposed, first, that poverty is nuanced and takes many forms. There is poverty due to climate change, natural disasters and unsustainable crops, to name several. She then proposed that in each of these cases, gender is one key factor influencing people’s vulnerability: It is more difficult for women to access certain jobs, food and humanitarian aid, and they are also more frequently exposed to violence.

Oxfam America ultimately uses her research to organize efforts on the ground and hold governments accountable for the equal treatment of their citizens.

Dr. Jayasinghe discussed how college students often get involved in international organizations including hunger banquets, the CHANGE initiative and international internships. She encouraged students that throughout her career, hope has outweighed tragedy.

“Being afraid is never a reason to not do something,” Jayasinghe said. “Sometimes, fear can serve as a cautionary thing. But is this coming from a place of knowledge or a place of ignorance? If it’s ignorance, push yourself, because you can have some amazing life experiences that way.”

Reinhardt President Dr. Kina S. Mallard implemented the Community Gathering Series to bring university students, faculty and staff together for educational presentations and dialogue. Rev. Jamie Hudgins will lead the final Community Gathering of the academic year March 28, at 1 p.m., in the Hill Freeman Library Community Room.