How to Impact Women’s Issues Globally | Wendee Wechsberg


Gender Discrimination, Substance Abuse and HIV

Ep. 173 - Wendee Wechsberg - Would you like to make an impact on women’s issues globally? Educating and empowering women in underprivileged communities while helping them escape illegal cultural practices requires collaboration, not competition. Wendee Wechsberg is a role model on how to create community impact globally. Wendee M. Wechsberg is making a huge impact on the world in gender equality and preventing substance abuse and HIV. She is the Director of the Substance Use, Gender, and Applied Research Program at RTI International. RTI is an independent nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving the human condition. She started her career in 1977 as an addiction clinician and later as a treatment director. She devoted her career fulltime to applied research in 1994 using both mixed methods to develop and test the efficacy of HIV prevention interventions among diverse populations of substance abusers. In this episode, Wendee talks about the functions and operations of RTI International globally and mostly in Asia and African countries. Listen in to learn the importance of focusing on collaborations and education to make an impact on issues affecting underprivileged communities. You will also learn the importance of having a passion to make an impact, especially when it comes to community work.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to impact communities through collaborations on things that matter
  • How to stay humble and loving when working in the humanitarian sector
  • How to empower the future generation of women through education in the grassroots

"To have an impact is to understand what you're passionate about. Because it's not just about knowing what your career is going to be." -Wendee Wechsberg

In this episode you’ll discover:


Wendee explains the socio-economic issues that RTI Global Gender Centre helps work on globally [2:15]

How they have educated both men and women on gender abuse and equality [3:43]

How they work on changing beliefs to change gender-based violence culture [5:24]

How RTI advocates and empowers girls through education in developing countries [9:37]

Wendee on the impact she’s made on social issues affecting underprivileged people [12:14]

The qualities that Wendee has developed through the course of her career [14:10]

The continued funding and community challenges that RTI is still facing today [14:53]

The women groups and local leadership programs that RTI is connected to empower women [16:16]

Focus on getting into an internship program if you consider a career in community work [21:54]


Wendee M. Wechsberg, Ph.D., is the Director of the Substance Use, Gender and Applied Research Program and Founding Director of the RTI Global Gender Center at RTI International. She is also an Adjunct Professor at UNC in Maternal and Child Health. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at North Carolina State University, and Adjunct Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine.

Dr. Wechsberg is the developer of the women-focused HIV prevention program, the Women’s  (WC). The WC is one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s best-evidence HIV behavioral prevention interventions. It has been adapted specifically for underserved and vulnerable adult and adolescent women in the United States and in multiple regions in South Africa, Tanzania, the Republic of Georgia, and Russia.

One South African adaptation (the Women’s Health CoOp [WHC]) is listed in the U.S. Agency for International Development Promising Practices Project’s Compendium of Programs in Africa and has been packaged for implementation into usual care settings in South Africa.

The theoretical framework of the women’s intervention is based on empowerment theory, which helps women to take charge of their lives by reducing substance use and gender-based violence; learning sexual negotiation and communication skills; and, more recently, learning the importance of PrEP and antiretroviral adherence.

Currently, she has several projects funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

She is President of the NC Women's Organization, devoted to advancing equality in North Carolina.


Dr. Wechsberg has published extensively on gender and ethnicity, outreach, substance abuse treatment, HIV risk, cultural adaptations, and intervention outcomes, including 153 peer-reviewed publications and 15 books and chapters.


She was awarded National Institute on Drug Abuse’s International Award for Excellence in Mentoring in 2013, NIDA’s Pioneer Award in 2015, and RTI’s Margaret Knox Award in 2018.


Ph.D., Community Psychology, North Carolina State University
MS, Human Development Counseling, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University
BA, Cultural Anthropology, Social Sciences, University of South Florida

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