A passion for improving the wellbeing of women and gender equality has been the fuel behind the successful career of Griffith Health’s 2016 Higher Degree by Research (HDR) Alumnus of the Year, Karen Struthers.

“I have been on a mission to promote gender equality throughout my career. I live by the mantra women will not be equal until we are free from violence. In my work, as a Cabinet Minister in the Bligh Government in Queensland, and as a social worker I have worked actively on programs that advance the economic status of women and aim to prevent gender-based violence.”

Karen’s PhD thesis, “Paving the Way for Girls into Male-Dominated Trades: Reducing Gender Segregation in the Trades”, aims to encourage women into male dominated trades and to promote the wellbeing of women. Her research highlights the importance of understanding the social determinants of health such as poverty, homelessness, sexual and physical violence, and how they all contribute to poor health outcomes. She is excited to work on programs that promote economic opportunities and security for women with the objective to end violence.

During her research, Karen explored youth participation models through the United Nations and was inspired to initiate R4Respect in Logan.

Run by YFS Ltd, R4Respect is an emerging youth-led program aimed at preventing domestic violence by facilitating peer-to-peer outreach and education to help young people understand what respect in relationships is and what crosses the line into harm.

“When young people get active in dealing with some of our big health issues, great things can happen”, Karen explains.

The recent domestic violence deaths are a concern to Karen.

Australian police deal with an estimated 657 domestic violence matters on average every day of the year.(1)

“These senseless deaths are also a concern to our R4Respect Youth Ambassadors and it shows how important their work as young people that promote respect is.

“The more our Youth Ambassadors and others can reach out to other young men to encourage respectful values and emotional resilience the better chance we have of ending this epidemic of violence against women.”

Griffith University is a big supporter of the program with nine of the 14 Youth Ambassadors being Griffith students. Griffith Red Backs rugby league team have also shown their support by having the R4Respect logo emblazoned on their jerseys.

“I am  absolutely wrapped about winning Outstanding Health Higher Degree by Research Alumnus of the Year. It has been a chance for the three years of my hard work to be publicly recognised. The networking opportunities since winning the award have been important as people have been focusing on the issues that matter.”