Charlene Coore-Desai, URC Resident Advisor, USAID ASSIST Project, Jamaica. Photo credit: URC

Since 1975, the United Nations and its partners have observed International Women’s Day, a time to recognize women for their achievements without regard to divisions of class, ethnicity, linguistic, or political.

URC joins in observing this day by sharing a conversation with one of the many women who help URC achieve our mission of providing innovative, evidence-based solutions to health and social challenges worldwide.

One of those women is Charlene Coore-Desai, URC Resident Advisor for the USAID ASSIST Project in Jamaica.  Coore-Desai has worked on issues related to human development for almost 20 years. Her research has focused on children at risk, particularly in urban areas; parenting; maternal and child health; early childhood development; disability; violence prevention; and research methodology. Under the ASSIST Project, Charlene leads Zika emergency response programming in Jamaica focused on psychosocial support services and child development.

Coore-Desai spoke with URC ASSIST partner, WI-HER, LLC, to share insights about the impact of one strong woman in her life and why this day is so important.

“Luckily, I’ve had exposure to many great women-owned businesses from an early age,” Coore-Desai said. “My mom opened a business in 1994 – now 25 years old – and my aunt runs her own business as well. I even have several friends who run their own businesses in Jamaica. Because of them, I’ve always had wonderful examples of bold women who are not afraid to take risks.”

“In her business, my mom always worked to give women a chance. She encouraged me and my sister to be confident and strong individuals,” Coore-Desai said. “Running a business wasn’t always easy though, it can be very challenging. Regardless, my mom always stayed determined and persevered, even during the hard times. She was a champion, never giving up. Seeing my mother go through all of that and acknowledging how brave she has always been, makes me want to be that kind of role model for my own daughters and tell them – you can do anything! It is not easy, but my mother does it so gracefully; I admire her for that.”

“Even on top of running a business, she has always found time to give back to our community. She helps give people opportunities. For example, in the summer time we run a camp for youth where they can learn about computer science and engage in sports and art. My mom often helps sponsor those who may not otherwise have the means to participate. And she volunteers her time at the YWCA and at church.”

“My mother inspired my career by showing me how to be determined, focused, and brave. I never felt like there was anything that I couldn’t do if I put my mind to it. She never made me feel like I had to follow any particular path. I was free to pursue my interests and passions. The only expectations were that I work hard and follow my heart. My mom is a fantastic role model – I am proud to be her daughter.”