By Paul R. Pace
“The world is going through a challenging time in regard to women’s health and rights, and as a social worker we have a crucial role to play to ensure women have access to proper care and health,” says Yasoda Sharma, PhD, MSW, director of Region IV for NASW’s national board of directors.
“My inspiration to serve on the board came from my desire to work toward the mission of NASW and the betterment of the social work profession,” she says.
Sharma, professor at the Department of Social Work at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, notes she came from a “humble background in a very small state in northeast India called Sikkim. I have seen firsthand the challenges faced by women, ethnic and gender minorities.”
“I always wanted to work around women’s issues and address women’s discrimination both globally and locally,” she says.
When Sharma worked for a hospital in Nepal, a tragic event triggered her future path. At the time, a man discovered he was HIV positive from a blood test. Upon hearing the news, the man later killed his family and himself.
“That really disturbed me,” Sharma reflects. “I was the only social worker working at the hospital. I just felt if only I had the opportunity to speak with this person — I cannot guarantee I would have stopped him from taking that step — I would have at least helped him with resources and maybe he would not have taken such a drastic step.”
After the tragedy, Sharma stressed to hospital administrators the importance of setting up a volunteer counseling and testing center. It took three years to find funding for the effort, but it finally materialized. Once the center was established, Sharma says she was amazed by the volume of people seeking services.
“I came across a lot of women who contracted HIV from their intimate partner,” she says.