DC Event: Panel Discussion

October 27th, 2014

time_to_actA Time To Act – Combating Sexual Violence in Syria and Iraq

A Panel Discussion and Lunchtime Roundtables 


As part of the American Red Cross mandate, the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) team hosts events to educate the American public about IHL and related issues. As part of this year’s event series, the American Red Cross, the AU WCL War Crimes Research Office, the GW Elliott School Global Gender Program and Physicians for Human Rights are organizing an event  to explore and discuss the increased use of sexual violence by state and non-state actors.

The purpose of this event is to shed light on pressing issues regarding International Humanitarian Law, complex emergencies, and sexual violence, with a particular focus on the atrocities committed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Our goal is not only to bring these issues to the forefront of the public debate but also discuss potential solutions to address them.

The panel discussion will be streamed live at: http://tinyurl.com/sexualviolenceandconflictlive to encourage dialogue from all over the country and world. Online participants can send in questions or comments ahead of time and during the event.  


10:00 am -12:00 pm: Moderated Panel Discussion

Speakers In Order of Appearance:

Dr. Aisling Swaine - Associate Professor of Practice of International Affairs, George Washington University, Elliott School of International Affairs

Sucharita S.K. Varanasi, JD MediCapt Project Manager & Senior Program Officer, Physicians for Human Rights

Ambassador Rapp (invited) – Ambassador-at-Large, Office of Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State

Sunjeev Bery- Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa, Amnesty International USA


Susana SáCouto- Director, War Crimes Research Office, American University Washington College of Law

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Lunch & Facilitated Roundtable Discussions

There will be facilitated lunchtime discussions to discuss and come up with suggestions to address specific problems within the overall topic.  Current topics and confirmed moderators include:

1) What would a campaign that engages grassroots and diaspora to combat human rights abuses look like? (Discussion led by Sunjeev Bery, Amnesty International)

 2) What role can mobile technology play in documenting sexual violence in conflict? (Discussion led by Sucharita S.K. Varanasi, Physicians for Human Rights)

 3) Do the protections in the Geneva Convention adequately address sexual violence in conflict? (Discussion led by Christie Edwards, American Red Cross)

 4) How can the US and the global community give greater protection to refugees fleeing the threat of sexual violence in Iraq and Syria? (Discussion led by Joan Timoney, Women’s Refugee Commission)

5) How can we combat stigma to prosecute and treat GSBV? (Discussion led by Emily Hooker, Vital Voices)

 6) How can we use technology to prevent the radicalization of young men as a consequence of military intervention in Syria and Iraq? (Discussion led by Katie Striffolino, Physicians for Human Rights)

7) How can we engage young men in the campaign to end sexual violence? (Discussion led by Omar Robles, Women’s Refugee Commission)


DC Event: Careers in Gender and Development

October 27th, 2014



RSVP here

DC Event Recap

October 27th, 2014

A Conversation with Susan Markham

by Camry Haskins

Susan Markham was light-hearted and relaxed when she came to speak at a Delta Phi Epsilon event on the George Washington University campus on Monday night. An alumnus from GW, Ms. Markham received her master’s degree in women’s studies and public policy. She candidly spoke to the crowd of 40 about her journey, from naïve graduate student researching women running for office, to her blind dive into campaign fundraising, and,finally to her current position as Senior Coordinator for Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Ms. Markham commanded the room with her quick wit and wealth of knowledge. The force of her presence was also relatable to the crowd of mainly undergraduate females, many of whom are probably still working out which direction their paths will takes them. Ms. Markham quickly announced how little of her own career she had planned out; what she thought would be a quick experiment into election campaigning, turned into a love that kept her coming back for many years. “Campaigns are like the chicken pox”, she said. “They are in your system. You are a carrier”. She also shared her personal journey of discovering what the terms “real adult”, “real job”, and “real mom” meant to her. As a self-proclaimed feminist, she confused some attendees when she spoke of actively trying to fit into traditional feminine roles, but her experience shows how overwhelming social norms are in shaping our subconscious thoughts and beliefs. There are times when Ms. Markham still struggles to balance home and work life, but that hasn’t stopped her from following her passion.

As her career advanced, she found herself first refocusing on domestic women’s issues, and later on gender in an international framework. Now with USAID, Ms. Markham uses her position to ensure that the agency looks at every issue through a gendered lens. From brainstorming ways to increase gender inclusivity within the organization itself, to advocating for looking at Ebola and other epidemics through a gendered lens, Ms. Markham won’t yield on important topics. Along with an increased focus on women, she also strives to look at gender inclusively. Whether it is stressing the importance of involving both men and women in projects that increase women’s access in areas they have been traditionally kept out of (e.g. agriculture, education, health) or pointing out that it is not just increasing the capability of women and girls that is important but also the gaps between men and boys (e.g. locations where the older men in the community are the ones determining when the boys reach manhood), she is always pursuing increased awareness and diligence toward equality and progress. With these goals ahead of her, she does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

When Ms. Markham opened up for questions, hands shot up. Her enraptured audience was eager to learn more; each question posed could have generated another long discussion. Walking out of the event that night, I felt confident that Ms. Markham would do everything in her power to advance her goal of “empowering women so they can be part of making the decisions”. USAID can only benefit from their decision to hire Susan Markham.

Org Spotlight: Women Rehabilitation Development International Foundation

October 22nd, 2014



Women Rehabilitation Development International Foundation (WRDIF) is an organization based in Sudan that focuses on providing services to women throughout Africa. Three specific target countries of WRDIF are South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya. WRDIF was formed in 2011 by the organization’s Executive President, Karak Mayik Denyok Miankol.

Karak, a South Sudanese born woman, was displaced to Khartoum in during the Civil war in 1993. While there she began volunteering and developing different projects to empower women. It was while there that she worked with Diar for Rehabilitation and Development Association (DRDA), a program that helped Sudanese children and women who had been displaced by the war. DRDA was also the organization that the WRDIF evolved from.

At WRDIF their mission is “to ensure that women’s rights, gender equality, and environmental social and economic justice are at the heart of policies, programs and practices at all levels”. WRDIF works to fuflill this mission through implementation of five distinct programs:

  1. Sisterhood Programme
  2. Income Generation Programme
  3. Adult Literacy
  4. Child Protection
  5. Humanitarian Assistance

A common thread throughout all five programs is the incorporation of one of the organization’s foremost goals, which is to provide a safe and enriching environment for the women it reaches. This is accomplished through actions to improve their self-confidence, cultural awareness, and overall wellness.

WRDIF strives to maintain sustainability by implementing evaluation measures to track observable outcomes. They both provide one-on-one consultations with the women currently within their programs, as well as track progress of graduates at 12 and 24 month intervals. Quarterly reports, economic surveys, and beneficiary feedback are other methods WRDIF utilizes to evaluate their success.

The program becomes cyclical, for at the completion many women who have benefited choose to give back, either monetarily or through in-kind services. WRDIF is also able to highlight their success stories as motivational tools for the next group of incoming participants.

Call for student papers: Human Development Conference at Notre Dame University

October 20th, 2014

University of Notre Dame

The 7th Annual Human Development Conference
February 27-28, 2015
University of Notre Dame
The Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity and the Center for Social Concerns at Notre Dame and SIT Study Abroad announce the 7th annual conference on human development.

The conference is an opportunity to explore past trends in development, evaluate current best practices, and discuss the future of development after the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. This year’s theme emphasizes the role of human dignity in development and how it may influence theory and practice in the future.

We are happy to announce our keynote speaker for this year, Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and senior UN advisor.

We invite undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines to apply to share their research experiences from a broad spectrum of topics, including:

For those interested in presenting a paper, please submit your abstract no later than Friday, November 14, 2014. 

For abstract submission please click here.

Invitations for participation will be extended by early December. Students who accept invitations to present at the conference will be responsible for securing funding for travel and other related expenses.

We hope you will join us!

DC Event Recap

October 20th, 2014

HerStory Screening is a Success

On Wednesday, October 15, GGP hosted Sally Nuamah, PhD candidate at Northwestern University and GW alumnus, to present her documentary, HerStory: Educate a Woman, Educate a Nation. Sally became inspired after her first trip to Ghana, as an undergrad at GW. The film is a response to her connection with the Ghanaian girls.

One individual highlighted in the documentary is Queen, the headmistress of a public school; the first female head of the school in 60 years. She turned the school around, putting girls on the front line of leadership. 

Many of the challenges the girls face are making it through high school and getting into one of 3 of the best university’s of Ghana: University of Ghana, Legon; Cape Coast University; Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Cost of education for 1 girl is about USD$500 a year (tuition, boarding, and books). 

One individual at the event described the documentary as “super interesting, and very touching too”.

The forty minute documentary was followed by a question and answer session with the director. Many guests stayed later to continue conversations with Ms. Nuamah.

Org Spotlight: U-TOUCH

October 20th, 2014


UTouch sign 1 (1)



New U-TOUCH Women’s Empowermen​t (WE) program inUganda

U-TOUCH stands for Universal Technology Outreach Community Hubs. The organization aims to help people create opportunity for themselves and their communities with marketable skills for the workforce, beyond completing school. U-TOUCH stemmed from the idea that “Brilliance is equally distributed….Opportunity is not.” With this in mind, U-TOUCH hired its first woman trainer at the Technology Innovation Hub (TIH) and completed its first program targeted at women’s empowerment.

utouch2Gloria, a Kenyan national currently studying at the University of California in Riverside, taught the women’s workshop pilot this summer and told the following:

“U-TOUCH did something in Gulu that had never been done before. It provided a safe space for women to share their issues and struggles and ultimately a space that welcomed self-expression, growth and understanding. As a class we tackled issues of self-esteem, building a positive body image, ways to over-come gender based violence and learned leaderships skills as well as how to start and manage a small business. Through the three week training, twenty women embarked on a journey that inspired them to push past their circumstances and insecurities and dared them to be fearless. At the end of the training twenty women received their certificates of completion with confidence, pride, knowledge and a fearless attitude ready to take on the world.”utouch1

The need for a program like WE became apparent from the first day U-TOUCH opened its doors. Executive Director, Deb Plotkin recalls her surprise when 75 men and only one woman came to the first day of class. She recalls, “I told the men that if they wanted to come back tomorrow, they had better bring a woman. And I said to the woman, come back tomorrow with all of your friends.” And from that point on, U-TOUCH classes have been gender balanced.

Now, men and women of the communities are engaged in constructive conversations about the roles and rights of women.

Org Spotlight: Sisters’ Shelter Somaya

October 13th, 2014

SistersShelterSomayaSisters’ Shelter Somaya

A Muslim Women’s Organization in Sweden, Sisters’ Shelter Somaya focuses on helping women who have been affected by violence. They have an anonymous hotline that allows women to call in anytime to request physical help and emotional support.

Sisters’ Shelter Somaya also operates shelters for women and girls who have been victims of violence. It is a safe space for Muslim women and girls to come if they have been physically or verbally abused, harassed, or threatened. In addition to their personal accommodations, the shelter will also offer advice on what rights these women have and where to go for further legal advice in cases where the women wish to take further action.

Everyone who works at this center has vowed to uphold confidentiality so that the women who call or come in can feel safe in the knowledge that they will not be targeted for their choice to seek help. In operation for over a decade, this non profit organization prides itself on the compassionate and nonjudgmental services it offers.

Org Spotlight: Dream Foundation Trust

October 7th, 2014

DMT3 1Dream Foundation Trust

The Dream Foundation Trust is a Pakistan based organization focused on enriching the community through development, relief, education, awareness and mentoring.

Humaira Bachal, founder of The Dream Foundation Trust, started out as one of the few girls attending school in her community. At twelve years old, she recognized the injustice, of how few girls had the oppportunity to achieve and education, and wanted to combat it. She began finding time to share her lessons with the girls within her community, using any space she could find.

Eventually her hard work was noticed by ARM Youth Welfare Society and they helped her receive outside support. With the financial help she was able to open the Dream Model Street School and launch the Dream Foundation Trust.

Org Spotlight: The Women’s Collective

October 7th, 2014

womenscollectiveThe Women’s Collective 

The Women’s Collective is a DC based community health and human service agency that focuses on women and girls. It is community and family centered in its aim to provide care and support for HIV/AIDs testing, education and comfort.  Their mission is to empower women and girls in understanding and accessing quality healthcare.

The Women’s Collective was founded by Patricia Nalls, a woman who lost her husband and daughter to AIDs and who was also HIV positive. She desired a space for women when she discovered that the majority of support was catered to gay men. In 1990 she started a secret phone line for women (secret because of the stigmas attached to HIV/AIDS). The Women’s Collective may have started as a single woman’s mission, but it has grown into a collective of women working together to empower themselves and enrich the lives of others.