Megan Radford

International Women’s Day with Dr. Jeannie Haggerty

March 8, 2017 | no comments | Special Features


They now recognize that they have an authoritative role.

Dr. Jeannie Haggerty is an epidemiologist in Montréal, Québec, and a member of a Global Partner church. She served on the World Vision Board of Directors from 2009-2017. Born and raised in Bolivia, she did her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Canada, where she met her husband. 

In the first of this two-part interview, Dr. Jeannie speaks about the incredible transformation she saw in the women of her home country, on her first World Vision trip.

Megan: Thank you so much for speaking with me today Dr. Jeannie. I’d like to begin by asking you what first interested you in becoming involved with World Vision.

Jeannie: I grew up in Bolivia, so I’ve always had an orientation towards international work. I was really excited by the opportunity.

As I gained knowledge, and then was invited onto the board, I was really impressed and excited by what World Vision was doing. In the end, there are a lot of people doing similar work in child-focussed community development.

But what really impressed me, ultimately, was how comprehensive their programs are, their excellence, and their commitment to accountability.

There are a lot of single-focus charities out there (water, education etc.) and World Vision is one of the few that still has that comprehensive vision.

Megan: Could you talk to us about one of World Vision’s areas of work that you feel passionate about?

Jeannie: I returned to Bolivia on a World Vision board member trip. The thing that struck me so much on that trip was the transformation of the role of women, and how much they are empowered through World Vision’s work with them. It was of a really different nature than the transformation from groups that solely focus on women.

A little girl sits amongst the women of her community in rural Bolivia.

A little girl sits amongst the women of her community in rural Bolivia.

The women there spoke with a great deal of conviction, not only about their newfound roles and authority, but also their understanding of their responsibilities. It was a really nuanced and beautiful way that these women were assuming servant leadership in their community that transformed families.

I had never seen anything like that deep level of transformation anywhere in Bolivia.

So much of the work that outsiders do in Bolivia often just reinforces existing social strata. And sometimes other NGOs create opposition within that. I felt that World Vision had this respectful place where they functioned within the social strata but empowered people within that. It was just remarkable for me to see.

Megan: As a Bolivian woman, how did you feel that World Vision’s work was different from organisations that solely work to empower women?

Jeannie: What really struck me is how women (in World Vision communities) always emphasize their responsibility, as well as their newly recognized positions of authority. They now recognize that they have an authoritative role in speaking for the health and education of their children, and that they can do that with authority to their husbands, to officials.

They really embrace that, as well as the empowerment they get from starting businesses and working together.

One example of this kind of empowerment was a woman I met who really impressed me. She was in an abusive relationship, where they fought all the time and she was beat up.

Rather than just running away from the situation, she actually confronted her husband. She told him that it wasn’t good for him to do what he was doing, and that he needed to change and be a different kind of father who could be respected.

It’s just such a different way of thinking, that she took that powerful responsibility of fighting for the integrity of her family and not just solving her own problem. I saw that over and over again- the combining of responsibility with a new empowerment.

Megan: That’s really transformative, and such a different approach from what we in the West would think she should do.

Jeannie: Yes, exactly- that she should above all, protect herself, and then protect her children. But she spoke to her husband and addressed the root problem, rather than trying to solve it superficially.

Megan: Thank you Dr. Jeannie for telling us your story, and Happy International Women’s Day!

Jeannie: My pleasure.

Check back next week for Part 2 of this interview, where Dr. Jeannie describes her church’s experience being a Global Partner with a community in Honduras.

About the author

Megan is the Communications and Social Media Specialist for the World Vision Canada Church Engagement team. As a journalist and editor she has worked for the CBC, Save the Children, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and Al Jazeera English.

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