Each year, the University of Pittsburgh’s Sheth Awards recognize one faculty member and one young alumnus for contributions around the world. This year’s celebration not only commemorated this work, but a decade of the award itself.
The Sheth Awards were established in 2012 by the Sheth Family Foundation, founded by Dr. Jagdish N. Sheth (KGSB ’63, ’67) and his wife, Madhu. The Georgia-based foundation fosters education, wellness and sustainability in the U.S. and India.
The celebration included the premiere of a new video featuring award winners past and present. Here are this year’s winners, who are both recognized for fighting for women and the disadvantaged.
2022 Sheth Distinguished Faculty Award winner
Nicole Constable, chair of anthropology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, is a groundbreaking scholar whose work focuses on the plight of domestic workers in Asia. She has authored four books about the lives of domestic workers, who are overwhelmingly female, the challenges they face, and their struggle for greater rights.
Constable’s first book, “Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Filipina Workers,” came out in 1997 and documented for the first time the economic and legal plights of Hong Kong’s foreign domestic workers. The women hail primarily from the Philippines and Indonesia and work as caregivers and household workers. Constable’s book described the multimillion-dollar industry — how agencies train, import and trade in the “helpers” and employers rely on them, but also violate their contracts or discard them at will.
By 2014, Constable’s work helped fuel a growing recognition of the plight of domestic workers. With the release of her second book, “Born Out of Place: Migrant Mothers and the Politics of International Labor,” the professor worked with nongovernmental organization Pathfinders Hong Kong to organize a series of lectures aimed at the organization’s biggest donors and leaders within Hong Kong society. “Born Out of Place” helped publicize the issue of domestic worker policies and promoted support for domestic workers who are mothers or who become pregnant.
“Passport Entanglements: Protection, Care, and Precarious Migration,” Constable’s most recent book, continues her focus on the plight of domestic workers and analyzes the ways in which the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines provide support for or ignore their domestic workers in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia.
Constable has also been a source of support for young scholars studying similar topics. She has joined workshops from the Social Science Research Council, including a faculty mentor dissertation workshop on Transnational Asia, a Korean studies workshop for junior faculty and an inter-Asian connections workshop.
“Learning sets the context for potential change,” Constable said at the award ceremony. “International education is about opening doors and learning about different ways of life, different beliefs, different experiences and different values from our own. Education should make people uncomfortable at times — if it doesn’t, we in the social sciences and humanities aren’t doing our jobs.”
2022 Sheth International Young Alumni Achievement Award winner
Since graduating from Pitt, Fatima Waziri-Azi (LAW ’11) has worked to safeguard human rights for the marginalized, especially women and girls, and advocate for disadvantaged urban poor and rural communities in Nigeria through sustainable institutional reforms focused on people-centered access to justice.
After her graduation, Waziri-Azi progressed from a research fellow to an associate professor of law and head of the public law at the Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies. There, she had the opportunity to educate and mentor young academics; train legal practitioners, prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officers; and contribute to legal jurisprudence through her research.
Later, she spent three years as rule of law advisor to the president in the Office of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where she informed policy on criminal justice and police reform, sexual and gender-based violence, anti-corruption and climate change issues.
Waziri-Azi also developed referral guidelines for gender-based violence response in Nigeria, initiated the approval of a toll-free line and short code for a response team in the nation’s capital, developed a national guide for establishing and managing sexual assault referral centers and conducted a mapping assessment of existing structures in the management of relations between farmers and pastoralists in Nigeria.
In September 2021, Waziri-Azi was appointed to director general and CEO of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person, the foremost law enforcement agency in Africa dedicated to tackling issues of human trafficking. Waziri-Azi has been responsible for changing the narrative of Nigeria as an origin, transit and destination country for the crime.
“I belong to the less than 10% of Nigerians who come to the States with a student visa, study and go back home,” Waziri-Azi said during her acceptance speech. “I went back home because I wanted to build the kind of Nigeria that I wanted, and I could only do that by being part of the system. I am truly grateful for the privilege I have had to serve in different capacities back in my home country.”
— Maggie Grey McDonald, photography by Aimee Obidzinski