Paterno Fellow makes international impact through 'Days for Girls'

Noelia Ortiz-Landazabal recently traveled to Africa to empower women and girls through sustainable menstrual care and health education

From left to right: Jessica Santucci, Caroline Camp, and Noelia Ortiz-Landazabal at SEGA Girls' School in Morogoro, Tanzania. Credit: Provided by Noelia Ortiz-LandazabalAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Noelia Ortiz-Landazabal is a Paterno Fellow majoring in political science and African studies with a minor in women’s studies. Through the Schreyer Honors College, Ortiz-Landazabal has gotten involved with "Schreyer for Women" and has made an international impact through "Days for Girls."

Schreyer for Women works with local schools and is currently working with a Girl Scout troop to help them earn their “College Knowledge” badge. They work with juniors and seniors in high school to prepare them for applying to college, and they visit local elementary schools to spread the word about STEM programs and encourage youth to get excited about typically male-dominated fields.

“Schreyer for Women was actually brand-new when I came in freshman year, and they were looking to fill a chair position,” said Ortiz-Landazabal. “I applied for the chair position and was selected, so freshman year I was a chair, and then sophomore year I applied to be a director and I have been in the same position since. I love it, my whole life I’ve been told if you have the opportunity to help others, why wouldn’t you? I’ve done a lot of work throughout my whole life with service, and coming here I knew I wanted to reach the local Penn State community but also impact communities abroad.”

Ortiz-Landazabal got involved with Days for Girls after going abroad. Days for Girls is an international organization with a local Penn State branch that empowers women and girls worldwide through sustainable menstrual care and health education. A main focus of the Penn State branch is sewing reusable menstrual pads that last three to five years. Through their efforts, more girls are able to go to school and more importantly, stay in school. Ortiz-Landazabal serves as the president of the Penn State branch.

“Over the summer, we had the opportunity to go abroad and deliver the reusable pads we sewed,” said Ortiz-Landazabal.

The group connected with a local women’s organization in Tanzania called "Modern Girl." This small organization of women, many of whom are former students of the SEGA Girls' School in Morogoro, Tanzania, are recognized by and familiar to locals. From online trainings to presentation practice, Penn State students worked closely with and learned from Modern Girl to put together a comprehensive presentation on feminine hygiene.

“We actually just got a $1,000 grant to purchase the materials needed to grow the operation,” said Ortiz-Landazabal. “We have a great, motivated team who are really passionate about this cause.”

In addition to the leadership positions mentioned above, Ortiz-Landazabal has gotten involved in various organizations. After her first year, she completed an internship as a data and research coordinator for the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, where she worked to produce sustainability analysis of think tanks in Africa. Ortiz-Landazabal was a teaching assistant for the three-credit honors course, "Leadership Jumpstart," where students work to determine who they are as leaders and create a final service project. When she was a student in the class, she created a concept called “iConnect” that was a way to put phones down at meals and enjoy face-to-face interaction. Ortiz-Landazabal worked as a UNESCO Undergraduate Research Fellow her first year where she studied the importance of having female leaders when creating female leaders. This past summer, Ortiz-Landazabal worked as a legislative and public affairs intern for USAID where she created training for communications directors as well as social media content. In this role, she also met with members of regionally focused bureaus to learn about the various projects they were working on.

Ortiz-Landazabal says that her liberal-arts education has made her more knowledgeable and prepared for the working world.

“I think what’s really cool about a liberal-arts education is that you get to work with groups and you’re able to analyze and synthesize large amounts of information and connect it,” said Ortiz-Landazabal. “Whether or not I’m working with technology, like with iConnect, creating new organizations, there is some level of analysis and synthesizing and connecting various problems and solutions. The reality is that the world is not black-and-white, it is more gray than anything. Having a liberal arts degree helps you navigate that gray area.”

After graduating in the spring, Ortiz-Landazabal hopes to join the workforce, travel and eventually attend graduate school. To other liberal arts students, she has the following advice: “Find what you’re passionate about and execute that passion. Get people involved with your passion.”

Penn State students giving a presentation on feminine hygiene at the SEGA Girls' School in Morogoro, Tanzania. Credit: Provided by Noelia Ortiz-LandazabalAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated September 03, 2020