Alum Awarded Peace Prize for Community Activism
SPH alum Bilqis Williams received the award from the Federation of International Gender and Human Rights for her local and international public health and human rights work.
School of Public Health alum Bilqis Williams (SPH’21) has received the 2020 Peace Prize for Community Activism from the Federation of International Gender and Human Rights (FIGHR). She is the first ever recipient of the award.
Founded in 2001, FIGHR is a registered non-profit, social impact organization that supports individuals and families facing gender-based violence and human rights violations, including incarceration, domestic violence, and homelessness, around the world. With a central focus on serving women and children, FIGHR works to meet the needs of those who have been marginalized through support groups, mentorships, and educational programming.
“I was nominated for this award because my motivation for practicing public health and advocating for human rights greatly aligns with the mission of FIGHR,” says Williams, who has worked on several health equity initiatives both locally and globally.
As a member of FIGHR’s inaugural fellowship cohort, Williams completed her practicum with the organization, where she led an interdisciplinary team in the development of several policies designed to assist the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the United Nations in their international plan for maternal care. The policies support maternal care across various situations, ranging from incarceration to homelessness.
While at SPH, Williams received an Activist Bucks grant to develop a program called Skill-Up in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission. Skill-Up assists people experiencing homelessness in developing and upgrading their practical vocational skills to help them transition into permanent employment and sustainable entrepreneurship. The original launch of the program was delayed due to COVID-19, and the program is now slated to become a legacy program with the Activist Lab at SPH.
Currently, Williams works on Ashmi Sheth’s congressional campaign in New York City as the campaign lead for race, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She is also a researcher at the Center for Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights at SPH under George Annas, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of health law, ethics & human rights, where she researches health data to advocate for policy change.
Williams says that attending SPH was one of the best decisions she has made. “Not only did classroom conversations and experiences prepare me for my future advocacy and human rights work, but having the opportunity to take these experiences and translate them into real-world practice was incredibly empowering,” she says.
“Right now, the world is intent on highlighting problems without providing solutions or hope,” says Williams. “I think the community and programs at SPH are able to provide that much-needed hope.”