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Global Health student Sarah Walji advocates for young nurses at World Health Assembly

MSc Global Health student Sarah Walji

MSc Global Health student Sarah Walji at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.

May 28, 2018

MSc Global Health student Sarah Walji believes that everyone has the ability to make an impact on the world. And as an advocate for young nurses, she’s doing just that. Last week, she travelled to Geneva to take part in the seventy-first World Health Assembly (WHA), which provides a forum to discuss the WHO’s strategic priorities, and offered Walji an opportunity to network with fellow student nurses, healthcare workers, policy advocates, and private and public sector representatives.

“I would love to see many more nurses, especially some of my young colleagues, at the forefront of global health leadership,” says Walji, who completed a bachelor of science in nursing at McMaster before joining the Global Health program in September.

Walji attended the WHA as a youth healthcare representative for Nursing Now, a three-year global campaign to raise the status and profile of nursing, improve world health outcomes, and enable nurses to maximize their contribution to achieving universal health coverage. Responding to an open application put out by ICN (International Council of Nurses) and GASNN (the Global Association of Student and Novice Nurses), Walji was selected with another young nurse from Africa to be part of the Nursing Now board.

"Having been involved with GASNN previously as their marketing director, and having attended the ICN Biannual conference in 2017, I knew I wanted to do more," says Walji. The Mississauga, Ontario native is the only Canadian on the board and, in this capacity, has led panel discussions to generate ideas for supporting young nurses in making a difference in the world of global health.

“Right now, there’s increasing interdisciplinary youth involvement in global health,” she says. “What I’m seeing - and experiencing - is this idea that ‘We are not the future – we are the NOW!’ and it’s exciting to be part of it,” she says.

Walji credits the Global Health program with fueling her drive to get involved in these change-making initiatives. “I think the program has given me the confidence to capitalize on the incredible opportunities available to students,” she says. “Plus, being in a program that’s both specialized and transcontinental means I’m able to speak to a variety of different topics in a variety settings.” 

For as long as she can remember, Walji has been passionate about social justice issues, especially health and its social determinants. As a child, she fundraised and held awareness events to shed light on humanitarian issues, including lack of access to food, water, and basic amenities in the developing world."

“I went into nursing because of my interest in global health, and I fell in love with the idea of being able to go beyond borders, and make an impact – no matter how small,” says Walji.

After graduating, she aims to work towards a career in global governance and international decision-making.