Interns Insights: The power of networking

‘Wandering around a room full of strangers; trying to spark conversations and desperately hand out business cards. All this in the hope of meeting the perfect connection.’

This may be what comes to mind when you think of networking. Terrifying, right? As scary as it may initially seem, networking is your gateway to accessing a wealth of knowledge, experience and opportunities. Whatever sector you are in and whatever it is you do, building your network and making important connections has immeasurable value. You never know where a connection will lead you!

The Power of Networking

In just 4 short weeks working for WSV, I have written hundreds of emails, attempted to master the art of cold calling and attended some truly inspirational conferences! From meeting a consultant neurosurgeon from Bahrain to the founder of the Africa Technology Business Network… you never know who you might come across! And whilst connections may not always be directly relevant, you never know how they could help you out in the future. Or more importantly, what you could offer them!

Last week, I atended the Planet Earth Institute’s ‘Scientific Independence for Africa’ conference. I was sat at a table with academics, policy makers, scientists and doctors, all working in the field of international development. As you can imagine, I was feeling pretty under-qualified, and was thinking ‘what on earth do I have to offer them?’ The man I was sat next to turned out to be a lecturer in global challenges who was seeking people with links to universities. I was able to share with him some key contacts from Environmental Sciences at the University of Southampton, to which he was incredibly grateful. It is these chance collaborations which can lead to the mutual exchanges of contacts, knowledge and skills that make networking so rewarding.

My top tips

Whilst after 4 weeks I am not claiming to be a networking genius, I have learnt a few things I want to share:

  1. Never overlook a contact as irrelevant – you don’t know who they might be able to put you in touch with!
  2. Think about how you can help others as well as what they can offer you  – the more you can help someone out, the more willing they’ll be to return the favour!
  3. Bring and collect enough business cards! The worst thing is running out halfway through or relying on others to email you – get those contacts to remember you and send a follow up email ASAP!

 

Amelia Gullett FRSA

Network Development Internship

It’s about time we started talking about periods

Imagine if, for five days every month you were banished from your house and forced to go and live in a shed. You weren’t allowed to enter your house, touch another person and you even felt ashamed to attend school. It sounds barbaric doesn’t it?

Every month young girls and women all over the world are forced to separate themselves and some, live in inhumane conditions, just because they are menstruating. Cultural beliefs, poverty and social factors often prevent women from having equal, and fair treatment during their period. In certain countries periods are a taboo subject and women are often seen as dirty, diseased and unfit to carry out certain tasks. In some countries in Africa people even see menstruation as a curse! All of these social stigmas have a massive effect on the livelihoods, education and confidence of these women.

school-1007067_960_720Nina from Nepal has struggled with social restrictions surrounding her period and at just 14 years old, she is banished from her house and forced to live in a shed during her period. Nina’s family practices chhaupadi, a Nepalese tradition promoting these unhealthy values. The tradition believes; when girls are menstruating, they bring bad luck and disease into the house. They are unclean. For years during their periods Nina and her mother have been forced to live in squalid conditions and this has often led to sickness and depression.

Social factors are only part of the problem. For some women, living in poor communities across the world, sanitary products are often expensive and hard to source. Instead of using hygienic methods, some have to resort to using pieces of cut up cloth or leaves to manage their menstruation. These methods are unclean and unreliable, leading to sickness and girls being embarrassed to attend school. According to the Girl Effect, 30% of girls living in Nepal skip school during their period. This is simply, not ok.

Enactus Southampton have created a sustainable solution to help eradicate some of these issues. ‘Petal’ (formerly SanEco Pads), are a new collection of reusable sanitary towels. The pads will enable women to regain their lives during menstruation and the discrete protection will help girls and women to feel more confident about dealing with their period in a hygienic way. We aim for girls to feel more assured about attending school and happy to carry out their day-to-day lives, knowing they have full protection. The enterprises are run by, and for people in communities making this a truly sustainable solution. The pads are designed to last for years and are less than 10% the price of alternative conventional pads.

Alongside the reusable sanitary pads Petal entrepreneurs also provide free education to women and where possible, men in the hope to educate communities about menstrual hygiene and remove any social stigmas surrounding menstruation.

pads widescrean

It’s crazy to think that we still tackling these issues in 2016, but period stigma still exists! Although girls are now able to access more of the resources they need, there’s no doubt we have a long way to go until everyone has access to clean menstrual sanitation. Education is helping rid the social problems surrounding periods, and during their periods girls are feeling more valued and respected than ever before. There are however numerous countries women are still treated differently on their periods.

Lets spread the word and together end period problems!

 

By Emma Taylor