This blog post is a part of the YTH Staff Interview Series, where we are featuring an in-depth Q&A with each member of our staff. This week, we’re talking to YTH’s newest team member, Emma Schlamm, who just joined our full-time staff this January as our Program Assistant. A recent graduate of Franklin and Marshall College, with degrees in Spanish and sociology, Emma is a recent East Coast transplant who interned previously at our organization and Exhale upon moving to Oakland. While a student, Emma volunteered at Pennsylvania’s first and only in-patient drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for Latino men and served as the Secretary of the Students for Autism Awareness Club. In her junior year of college, Emma lived in Argentina and researched obstetric violence and the significant role it plays in the ongoing struggle for women’s bodily autonomy.
To get more insight into Emma’s background in public health and newly acquired role at YTH, I spoke with her about joining the YTH team more permanently post-internship, her college activism, YTH Live, and more.
ERIN: Welcome to the YTH family, Emma! What made you inclined to join our staff more permanently, after the conclusion your internship?
EMMA: Thanks, Erin! I am super excited to officially join the team. The way I ended up here is an interesting story…I graduated college in May and accepted a position with an amazing nonprofit program called Springboard Collaborative. Springboard is a summer literacy program that runs programs in schools in Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Oakland. They really needed Spanish speaking staff in Oakland and asked me if I would consider relocating there for the summer. I had never been to Oakland before, but was excited by the idea of moving across the country for a summer job. I fell in love with the Bay Area and six months later, here I am! After the summer program ended, I began a part time internship with Exhale, an Oakland nonprofit that runs a multilingual, award winning, international post-abortion talkline. Because the internship was part-time, I began working at YTH part-time as well in September. I fell in love with the energy, the people, and the mission here and was eager to become more involved. There is so much I have to learn about the nonprofit & public health worlds, but I am very excited to learn from the amazing people around me.
ERIN: You have quite an impressive and diverse resume of experience in public health, even though you are young and newly graduated from college. What has been your most impactful position or project to date and how are you carrying what you learned from that experience to your work at YTH?
EMMA: Thank you! It’s funny you say that. In college, I studied Sociology and Spanish and always secretly wanted to study Public Health, but was intimidated by the requisite Biology classes (I am much more of a humanities person).
My interpretation of what “public health” meant was very parochial. As I went through school and had different experiences, I began to realize that “public health” encompasses so many different areas beyond vaccinations and medications. Sexism is a public health issue. Educational inequity is a public health issue. Racism is a public health issue.
My most impactful project to date was living in Argentina my junior year of college and researching obstetric violence. I went to Argentina with intentions of studying “abortion tourism” because thousands of women must travel from Argentina to Uruguay to have abortions every year, where it is legal.
As I began speaking to women, the term “violencia obstétrica” kept coming up in conversation. It was a term that did not really exist in English, and thus, was brand new to me. As I interviewed women and doctors, I began to learn about this term and about what a serious problem it was there. Many women in Argentina are not respected or given adequate options before, during, or after childbirth. Examples of this include women’s’ pain being disregarded, mocked, or minimized. Rates of Cesarean sections in Argentina are around 80% and anywhere from 10-20% in Europe and in the United States. Many women I spoke to had episiotomies without ever remembering consenting to having them. Many women did not know they had the right to choose their birthing position and that it did not have to be in the standard lithotomy position. I also quickly learned that rates of obstetric violence disproportionately affect poor, uneducated, and indigenous Argentinean women.
Obstetric violence is slowly gaining more visibility in the legal and public health worlds globally and I believe this is greatly due to the accessibility and availability of technology. Women have created online support groups for survivors of obstetric violence and can Google what the existing laws are and how to seek legal justice if they have been a victim of obstetric violence. I met women who have created YouTube videos that explain what obstetric violence is and how to ensure it does not happen before, during, or after childbirth. When women are educated about the law and about their bodies, they help dismantle the often unbalanced doctor-patient power dynamic. I am inspired by the women I spoke to and hope to carry their dedication, innovation, and bravery with me in my work at YTH.
ERIN: This will be your first year attending our conference, YTH Live! What are you looking the most forward to experiencing, seeing, or learning?
EMMA: I am so excited to see everything come together and to hear and learn from different people who work with varying communities and varying technologies. I think it is both easy and seductive to be critical of the impact of technology on today’s youth. I am hoping YTHLive will challenge these critiques and demonstrate the potential technology has to positively impact the lives of young people. (I am also very excited about the interactive screens at Bespoke!- they are too cool).
To learn more about Emma and her work, read her full bio here.
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