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July 29, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

Los Altos Town Crier: Los Altos resident promotes women’s reproductive rights in Nepal

Written by Alexandra Nuttbrown – Town Crier Editorial Intern   

Growing up in Los Altos, Heather Webb came to understand how privileged she was compared to much of the world. Not content merely to observe, she embarked on a personal mission to help those less fortunate.

Since graduating from Los Altos High School in 2000, Webb has worked as a corporate attorney in New York, as an intern with Human Rights Watch doing disability rights work and on an NYU Law Students for Human Rights’ program, The Advocacy Project, which helps marginalized communities tell their stories, claim their rights and produce social change.

Webb recently left for Nepal on a four-month Peace Fellowship to help underserved women there overcome the severe social and physical plight of uterine prolapse (falling of the womb).

The Advocacy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, granted Webb the fellowship to pursue the work in Nepal.

Webb plans to work with the Women’s Reproductive Rights Program (WRRP), based in Kathmandu with field offices throughout Nepal. Her goals include attempting to reduce the prevalence of uterine prolapse among Nepalese women, as well as contributing to the program’s advocacy and outreach efforts.

Uterine prolapse is a serious problem for women in Nepal, according to Webb. A strong stigma surrounds the condition, she said, with women often suffering in silence or fearing that their husbands will divorce them and their communities will ostracize them if they reveal it.

Although a preventable and treatable disease, gender discrimination and inadequate access to information have contributed to a high rate of the condition in Nepal, Webb said.

She said the primary objective of her fellowship is to “increase awareness on an international level of the high prevalence of (uterine prolapse) in Nepal, as well as the underlying women’s rights issues that are the causes.”

After the conclusion of her fellowship, she expects to work with WRRP to develop a proposal to reduce the pervasiveness of uterine prolapse by combating child marriage. WRRP could submit the proposal to international organizations to solicit assistance.

Webb attended NYU School of Law, where she studied international human rights law. She said she is inspired to help people out of a sense of responsibility.

“I was born in a family and in a community that provided me with such incredible opportunities,” said Webb, who attended Almond and Egan Junior High schools in Los Altos. “I feel thankful and glad for that, but there is no reason why I deserved it. … I could just as easily have been given a different life in which realizing my rights was far more of a struggle.”

Webb intends to blog and tweet about her work throughout her stay in Nepal. Upon returning to the U.S., she will offer presentations on her experiences at schools and other interested organizations.

WRRP is unable to cover Webb’s full costs this summer, so she is fundraising to underwrite the trip. She has raised a quarter of her target amount.

For more information or to donate, visit OMM.


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