Navina and Nithiyaa Pushpanathan are past presidents of the Dignitas Youth chapter at Western University. A friend attending McGill University introduced the sisters to Dignitas International’s work and they were inspired to start a chapter at their school in 2012.
“The sustainable and community approach [to improving health care] spoke loudly to us. Dignitas International’s efforts are extraordinary and we wanted to be involved with this organization,” says Navina.
Along with other chapter members, the pair have hosted several campus events, from a World AIDS Day event to a Race for Dignity to raise awareness and funds for Dignitas’s medical and research programs. They also regularly bring in speakers who are working to fight HIV and have elevated the profile of AIDS-related issues in the Western community. The Pushpanathan sisters served as co-presidents until their final year of studies, when they stepped back to allow other members of their team to grow into leadership roles.
“Medical care and research together is imperative to [changing] health policy because it stimulates sustainable and systematic change within a government’s health policy,” says Nithiyaa. “It is important to have a positive relationship with the people that handle health policy in order to gain access to better medical care,” adds Navina.
Navina and Nithiyaa have taken care to ensure that the mission of Western’s Dignitas Youth chapter aligned clearly with Dignitas International’s mission.
“This was important for us… [to] make sure that we are informed and aligned with Dignitas International’s efforts. This allows us to make the right impression at our school as [a] community,” explains Navina. Dignitas International’s support through communication and supply of materials “aided our connection with the International organization and encouraged our continued efforts,” adds Nithiyaa.
Navina, a finance major, is now working in commercial real estate, and Nithiyaa, a double major in finance and political science, hopes to attend law school. Her aspiration is to work with Dignitas and similar organizations in order to support global health issues from a legal framework.
“My time with Dignitas…has really inspired my desire to spend my future and career dedicated to improving human rights and human dignity.”
Both women hope to continue their relationship with Dignitas. As Navina says, “we have put in 4 years of consistent work, we don’t see ourselves stopping at any given point. We would love to…see what we can do now.”
We offer our sincere thanks and gratitude to Navina and Nithiyaa for building the Dignitas Youth Western chapter to where it is today. Your hard work and leadership over the last four years has made a great deal of difference in the Western community, and has improved the health of Malawians living with HIV. We look forward to your continued involvement with Dignitas in the future.