Archive for the ‘events’ Category

Law, negotiation and armed conflict: What role for gender equality?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Guest Contributor: Dr. Aisling Swaine

I recently participated in a conference organized by Durham University Law School in the United Kingdom on Law and Negotiation in Conflict:  Theory, Policy and Practice which took place from March 20th and 21st. The aim of the conference was to explore the relationship between law and negotiation processes that take place in relation to situations of armed conflict.

Key issues arise when examining the role of law during mediation and negotiation processes.  The relationship between law and politics is a key consideration, particularly in ensuring the adoption of a peace agreement that holds legitimacy and which in the longer term post-conflict terrain, adequately addresses the diverse concerns and needs of the affected population.

(L-R) Aisling Swaine, ESIA; Dr. Sari Kuovo, Afghanistan Analysis Network; Dr. Anashri Pillay, Durham Law School (moderator); Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women

(L-R) Aisling Swaine, ESIA; Dr. Sari Kuovo, Afghanistan Analysis Network; Dr. Anashri Pillay, Durham Law School (moderator); Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women

A specific theme addressed by the conference was the status of women in conflict and post-conflict environments, and how considerations of gender are relevant to the role of law in negotiations.  I was privileged to share a panel with Ms. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and Dr. Sari Kuovo, Afghanistan Analysis Network.  Ms. Manjoo provided a wonderful overview of the key international legal frameworks that provide for women’s rights and equality in the context of peace negotiations, and evolving norms such as those provided by the UN Security Council women peace and security resolutions.  Dr. Kuovo talked about the realities of the situations faced by women in such contexts as Afghanistan, and the barriers that present to women’s participation in negotiation processes, not just by national actors, but the failure on the part of international interlocutors such as the UN and international governments to take actions regarding women’s rights.  My contribution focused on the potential that the transitional moment offers to advancing women’s rights, and the relevance of the concept of ‘transformation’ which underpins gender equality policy norms, to considering whether negotiation processes work for women.  Key considerations are how issues such as ‘security’ are framed and conceived in negotiations, and whether both those broad negotiations at macro levels, as well as those that play out at micro (community) levels, take transformative approaches, and ensure that key factors affecting men and women are considered and addressed.  For example, ensuring that such processes capture and are based on gendered concepts of security in important, particularly in addressing the relevance of the constancy of gendered violence in women’s lives, both during and after conflict.

A really interesting angle tackled by the conference was the relationship between theory and practice.  A range of academic scholars and practitioners in the field of international law and conflict resolution were present.  Debate revolved around how the differing standpoints and experiences of scholars and practitioners contribute to advancing approaches to utilizing law in negotiation processes.  Evident was a set of differences as well as much complementarity that each set of actors brings to both understanding as well as practically advancing the relevance and application of legal norms in negotiation processes. A key point for me was considering how women’s rights norms can secure enhanced legitimacy in negotiation processes globally, and how scholarship and practice can work in tandem to concurrently critically examine as well as tackle the barriers that continue to exist.

AislingAisling Swaine is Associate Professor of Practice of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, GW.  Aisling has spent over 14 years working on issues of violence against women, women, peace and security and transitional justice at programming and policy levels internationally.  She teaches on gender and conflict and on global gender policy. 

Event recap: re-thinking gender in peacekeeping

Friday, April 11th, 2014

By student contributor Andrew Elliott

Dr. Henri Myrttinen and Dr. Aisling Swaine discussing violence in post conflict societies.

Dr. Aisling Swaine (left) and Dr. Henri Myrttinen (right) discussing violence in post conflict societies.

Henri Myrttinen approaches post-conflict societies from a perspective that is gaining traction: peace building through a gender lens inclusive of the roles both women and men play in society. Traditionally, when working in post-conflict environments, governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) equate gender issues with women. Myrttinen’s organization, International Alert, seeks to broaden the approach to gender in peacekeeping by including men. He believes that to understand the persecution and violence women and other socially marginalized groups face in post-conflict societies, we must include men in the dialogue and understand the role of masculinity and how it contributes to violence.

Myrttinen began his presentation by describing his work as a Senior Research Officer at International Alert, an organization that conducts peace building in regions in post-conflict transition. Currently, the organization focuses primarily on Colombia, West Africa, the Great Lakes region in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia and the South Caucasus. The organization’s work ranges from consultation for the United Nations to economic development in small villages in the Caucasus.

Next, Myrttinen described three methods used to examine the connection between gender and violence in regards to peace building; 1) gender blind peacekeeping, 2) women based security, and 3) gender-relational peacekeeping. Myrttinen’s research capitalizes on the third approach, focusing equally on men and women when studying societal based perceptions of peace building and violence. His most recent work looks at case studies in four states: Burundi, Colombia, Nepal and Uganda. His research explores how gender relational peace building can be practiced and whether it is effective. He found that violence perpetrated by females is often overlooked, and that males are vulnerable in many cases as well.

Myrttinen also highlighted four organizations that follow gender relational peacekeeping in post-conflict societies. In Uganda, an organization works with refugee groups to increase awareness of violence among men and boys. In Burundi, the Association des Femmes Repatriées (AFRABU) works to increase women’s economic empowerment and involvement in political issues while simultaneously bringing men into the discussion. In Nepal, SSKP was created – a radio talk show that discusses gender differences and violence. And lastly, in Colombia, Amore raises women’s social and political awareness and seeks male input.

During the concluding Q&A session, students asked Myrttinen about his previous experiences in East Timor and his success with gender-relational peacekeeping in comparison to female centric or gender blind security. Ultimately, he concluded, reducing societal violence, requires a gender-relational approach when engaging with different stakeholders in society. Combating violence towards women requires both genders to reconcile and progress towards equality.

Andrew Elliott is an Elliott School undergraduate student seeking a major in international affairs with concentrations in international development and a regional concentration in Asia. With interests in Southeast Asia and most of the developing world, he aspires to someday work and conduct research in these regions.

GW event: Girls’ Education and School-related Gender-based Violence

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Rescheduled Panel Discussion

Who: FHI 360 and the Global Gender Program
When: Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 5:00-7:00 pm
Light reception to begin at 4:30 and continue after panel
Where: Room 602, Lindner Family Commons, 1957 E Street NW
Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University
Washington, DC 20052
To RSVP: click here

To celebrate International Women’s Day FHI 360 and the Global Gender Program present a panel discussion: Girls’ Education and School-related Gender -based Violence.

Between 500 million and 1.5 billion children experience violence every year, many within and around the school community. School-related gender based violence (SRGBV) is a global phenomenon that is a barrier to girls’ and boys’ educational achievements, is correlated with lower academic achievement, higher economic insecurity, and greater long-term health risks. SRGBV is related to other forms of violence in the community, particularly for girls, and reinforces harmful gender norms.

What is the development community doing to address SRGBV and its impact on girls’ education worldwide? This interactive panel discussion will examine the connections between SRGBV and girls’ access to, retention in, and completion of school. Panelists will explore challenges to preventing SRGBV, approaches for changing norms, opportunities for empowering girls, and will offer solutions for fostering safe learning environments to improve educational outcomes for girls and boys alike.

GW event: Re-thinking Gender in Peacebuilding

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

When: April 1 | 1-2pm
Who: Global Gender Program
Where: Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E St NW
Suite 501 Conference Room

In this seminar, Henri Myrttinen will present ”Re-thinking gender in peacebuilding”, which is based on a 3 year research project in Burundi, Colombia, Nepal and Uganda with the thematic focal areas of access to justice, economic recovery, inter-generational conflict and continuums of violence. It explores how the gender, peace and security agenda could better engage with men and boys, as well as sexual and gender minorities, while remaining engaged with improving the lives of women and girls. As a part of this, the project is also looking at how to meaningfully work with a more nuanced approach to gender, i.e. how age, social class, marital status, urban/rural setting, etc. inter-act with gender identities.

Henri Myrttinen is a senior research officer on gender in peacebuilding at International Alert, London. He has been working and publishing on issues of gender, peace and security with a special focus on masculinities and violence for the past decade and holds a Ph.D. in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. His thesis examined masculinities and violence in the context of East Timorese militias, gangs and martial arts groups.

RSVP here

Women’s empowerment: Perspectives from near and far

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Guest post by doctoral student Brian Keilson

A second international videoconference was held on February 19, as part of the on-going partnership between the Global Gender Program at the George Washington University and the Gender and Development Studies Department at Lahore College for Women’s University. In Washington, DC, participants face an early morning, beginning at 8am, while, in Lahore, the get-together means a late evening with the event starting 10 hours later.

IMG_2867[1] (1)

Discussion between GW and LCWU students, staff, and faculty at the February 19 videoconference.

Each side was pleased to welcome a special guest. At GW, in attendance was Elliott School alumna, Ms. Arifa Khalid Parvez, a member of the Pakistani National Assembly (equivalent to a U.S. Senator). At LCWU, we were honored by the presence of Vice Chancellor, Sabiha Mansoor.

The one-hour meeting began with presentations from faculty and students at LCWU addressing aspects of women’s empowerment in Pakistan,

Key points from the four presenters were:

  • although higher education policies in Pakistan have promoted equal opportunity, there is still a significant gap between female graduates and employment, due to less opportunity because of religious or cultural biases toward different occupations.
  • for many females, teaching is the culturally preferred occupation.
  • however, there are females in every industry from politics to IT, to the army, judicial system and even taxi drivers.
  • Pakistani women have attained success in many areas, including:
    • Samira Baig- 1st Pakistani women and only 3rd Pakistani and youngest Muslim women to ascend Mt. Everest.
    • Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy- won an Oscar Award for best documentary.
    • women are truly agents of change in Pakistan from politics to philanthropy
    • there are more women in government in Pakistan than in Sri Lanka, Iran and India
    • there is a separate government ministry for women and there are many prohibitions against discrimination including in the country’s constitution
    • these protections, however, are not enforced evenly throughout the country

After hearing from our partners at LCWU, Candice Matthews, a doctoral candidate in Human & Organizational Learning at the Graduate School of Education & Human Development discussed her dissertation research on American female social entrepreneurs’ identities as an example of qualitative research. She highlighted her methods and findings from her in-depth interviews will 11 women entrepreneurs in the U.S. This presentation generated interest from the attendees at LCWU and GW, especially, about how these women succeeded and felt empowered in their roles. Key points were: a support network and having meaningfulness in their work, while still keeping in mind that stereotypes were still present regarding women.

Open discussion at the video conference also addressed U.S. laws regarding women’s empowerment, negative stereotypes about women and how women may overcome them, training opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and in what sectors women are succeeding.  At one point, a participant from LCWU asked the GW male audience to explain the male perspective of female empowerment. This question put the author of this post on the spot – the answer was a bit complicated but in essence shared that some men might feel threatened by the concept of female empowerment, but not all do.

The conference wrapped up by discussing how to integrate women’s empowerment opportunities into education. GW’s Shaista Khilji emphasized the importance of paying attention to words such as “empowerment” and what it means in different contexts. She reminded the participants that “women’s empowerment” is a cultural construction and needs to be explored in that sense, from a multi-disciplinary perspective, and with attention to studying the different meanings of empowerment. LCWU’s Sarah Shahed provided a very positive note by saying that this conference was even better than the first one that we had in December 2013.

PictureBrian Keilson is a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the Department of Human & Organizational Learning in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at GW.  



The activity reported in this post is funded by a grant to the Global Gender Program (GGP) from the U.S. Department of State to support a three-year partnership (2014-2016) between GGP and Lahore College Women’s University (LCWU) in Pakistan. At GW, faculty leading the project are Barbara Miller, director of the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program and professor of anthropology and international affairs, and Shaista Khilji, professor of human and organizational learning in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and faculty member of the Elliott School and the GGP. Leading the partnership at LCWU is Sarah Shahed, chair of the Department of Gender and Development Studies. The two groups will work together to share knowledge and understanding about women’s status and empowerment in both Pakistan and the U.S. Another goal is to build capacity of faculty and students at LCWU, and during the first year, the partnership will focus on the curriculum of LCWU’s M.A. degree program. Each year, GW will host video conferences and provide webinars to facilitate intellectual exchange and cross-cultural understanding of shared challenges and solutions. Faculty and student exchanges will further contribute to the goals of the partnership. Every year, several LCWU MA students will attend classes at GW in the second summer session. LCWU faculty will visit GW to offer lectures and develop collaborative research projects, and GW faculty will spend time at LCWU delivering courses.

GW event: Women’s Empowerment in Pakistan and the United States

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
LCWU event photo

GW’s first video conference with LCWU in December.

Who: Global Gender Program

Where: Lindner Family Commons, 602
1957 E St NW, Elliott School of International Affairs
Washington, DC 20052

When: Wednesday, February 19th at 8am

This Video Conference will connect GW with Lahore College Women’s University (LCWU) in Lahore, Pakistan, for a live discussion between faculty and students at both universities. It will look at women as agents of social change, women in politics and civil society and include issues such as constraints faced by women in employability and emerging avenues for women empowerment in Pakistan both state and non-state initiatives. Open discussion will follow brief presentations from LCWU faculty and students.

Professor Barbara Miller, Anthropology and International Affairs and Professor Shaista Khilji, Education and International Affairs, GW; Professor Sarah Shahed, Head, Department of Gender and Development Studies, LCWU. 
Speaker from GW:
Candice Matthews, PhD candidate

Speakers from LCWU’s Gender and Development Studies Department: 
Mehr Agha, Assistant Professor
Asma Seemi, Assistant Professor
Madiha Nadeem, Teaching Assistant, MS candidate

RSVP here:

“Wrestling on the page” about contemporary Tibet

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

On the Insight Tibet blogDr. Tashi Rabgey, research professor in international affairs at GW, reports on a talk by Dr. Tenzin Jinba, professor of sociology and anthropology at Lanzhou University, China, and is currently a program fellow in agrarian studies at Yale University.

The February 3 event was sponsored by the Tibet Governance Project of the Elliott School’s Institute for Global and International Studies. It was entitled: Gender, Identity Politics and State-Society Relations on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier and was based on the author’s 2014 book, In the Land of the Eastern Queendom: The Politics of Gender and Ethnicity on the Sino-Tibetan Border (University of Washington Press, 2014).

Dr. Rabgey applauds Dr. Jinbo for: “…his willingness to wrestle on the page with…questions of Tibetan identity politics, he has not only provided a refreshing new standpoint on the politics of ethnicity and ethnic representation in the context of Tibet…[and] he has also thrown down the gauntlet for the debate-to-come about the collision of Tibetan and Chinese nation

Upcoming D.C. Event: Remedies for Harm Caused by UN Peacekeepers

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Remedies for Harm Caused by UN Peacekeepers 

Who: The American Society of International Law, in cooperation with the United Nations Association-National Capital Area, the American Bar Association Section of International Law, and the Washington Foreign Law Society

Where: : American Society of International Law, Tillar House
2223 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington D.C. 20008

When: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 | 12:00 – 2:00 pm

Allegations of misconduct and other activities by UN Peacekeepers that may result in harm to third parties raise serious concerns. The UN has put in place a zero tolerance policy, improved training, and instituted a host of measures designed to prevent misconduct and implemented a regime for responding to claims that result from the activities of Peacekeeping missions. But what happens when prevention is not fully successful? What about the victims of abuse? What remedies are or should be available to such victims or to others that may have been injured as a result of UN Peacekeeping activities? This program will examine these issues in the context of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, charges of sexual exploitation and corruption involving peacekeepers in other missions, and other developments.


  • Jose Alvarez, Herbert and Rose Rubin Professor of International Law, ASIL Academic Partner NYU
  • Ira Kurzban, Partner, Kurzban Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli and Pratt PA; Lead Attorney, Georges, et al v. United Nations
  • Bruce Rashkow, Lecturer in Law, ASIL Academic Partner Columbia University; formerly of the UN Office of Legal Affairs; and former head of the U.S. State Department’s Management and Reform Section of the UN Mission

Moderator: David Birenbaum, Of Counsel, Fried Frank; former US Ambassador to the UN for Management

Registration Information:

- ASIL members=Free

- Non-ASIL members=$15

D.C. Event: Islam and Reproductive Health Care in Morocco

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Islam and Reproductive Health Care in Morocco

Who: Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists

Where: Charles Sumner School, corner of 17th St and M St NW, Washington, DC

When: February 4 | 7:00pm

News articles in the post-9/11 moment have referenced the fact that Muslim populations are growing outside of the Middle East and North Africa. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the Muslim population in the United States is expected to double by 2030. After the tragic events of September 11th, the migration and reproduction of Muslims raises concern about the potential for terrorist acts by fundamentalist groups who have settled in places like the United States, Canada, or Europe. It is reasonable to suggest that Muslim fertility has become a political matter in the United States and a topic of popular and scholarly importance. Islamic doctrine has frequently been interpreted (or seen as being interpreted) as prohibiting family planning, but there is no set interpretation of the Qur’an and sacred texts. The interpretation is open depending upon the person (or group) reading or teaching the doctrine and where this is taking place. Muslims’ reproduction and more importantly their bodies have become the subjects of political and popular scrutiny in part to prevent the international threat of violence by future generations.

In this presentation will explore the ways in which Islam has been interpreted as encouraging the use of family planning and reproductive health care, and along the way, it will complicate our understandings of neoliberalism. In it, I will present data that I collected through extended ethnographic fieldwork in Morocco in order to analyze the relationship between reproductive health, development policy, and popular Islamic beliefs. Responsibility and self-governance are two traits often associated with neoliberal citizenship in scholarly and popular discourses and are clearly the goals of the National Initiative for Human Developmentundefineda program launched in Morocco in 2005 that makes social development and improving citizens’ lives top political priorities. The program is based upon the premise that if the government provides the proper tools and knowledge, it is the citizens’ responsibility to use them to reach their full potentials. Through an analysis of childbearing and childrearing practices of urban Moroccan women living in and near the capital of Rabat, I demonstrate that these women are active in their own governance and accountable for their reproductive behaviors, and in addition, they take advantage of the reproductive health services offered in Morocco, but they did not do this at the behest of the government’s policy, they did so because of their understandings of what Islam says about fertility and motherhood. I suggest that their engagement with religious discourses and teachings illustrates that modern contraception and reproductive health care are pious in nature because they allow women to put their Islamic beliefs of proper womanhood and motherhood into practices, especially being able to provide a quality life for themselves and their children.

Speaker bio: 
Cortney Hughes Rinker earned her Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from the University of California, Irvine in 2010. She is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at George Mason University and is the director of graduate studies in Anthropology. She conducted long-term research (2005-2009) on reproductive health care among working-class women in Rabat, Morocco. She focused on the ways the country’s new development policies impact how childbearing and childrearing practices are promoted to women and how women incorporate these practices into their ideas of citizenship. Before joining George Mason, Cortney was a postdoctoral fellow at the Arlington Innovation Center for Health Research at Virginia Tech where she worked in conjunction with a healthcare organization in southwest Virginia developing projects to improve the quality of end-of-life care and psychiatric services in rural Appalachia. She is currently engaged in a new study on the role of Islam in end-of-life care within the context of the US health care system and is looking at the ways that Islamic medical ethics and popular Islamic beliefs intersect with health policy and discourses in the United States and recommendations for care at the end-of-life. Ethnographic research for her new project has led her to develop a second smaller study on the use of religious apps for the iPhone and other devices to help people develop and/or live out their faith. She is the author of Islam, Development, and Urban Women’s Reproductive Practices (Routledge, 2013) and has published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly, the Arab Studies Journal, Journal of Telemedicine and e-Health, and Military Medicine. A chapter of hers appears in Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa: Into the New Millennium (Indiana University Press, 2013) and she has been a guest on WVTF Roanoke to discuss end-of-life care.

GW event: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World – Let’s End Violence against Women

Friday, November 15th, 2013

This international video conference will link the George Washington University with Lahore College for Women’s University (LCWU) in Pakistan for a live student discussion to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence. It will provide the opportunity for students at both universities to share views about challenges and prospects for change. The event is part of a new three-year partnership between GW and LCWU funded by the U.S. Department of State.

Convenors/moderators: Professor Barbara Miller, Elliott School, GW

Professor Shaista Khilji, Graduate School of Education and Human Development, GW

Professor Sarah Shahed, Chair, Department of Gender and Development Studies, LCWU

When: Tuesday, December 3 | 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

Where: 1957 E Street NW, Lindner Family Commons, 6th floor

To RSVP for this event:

Sponsored by the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program (GGP). Coffee/tea/juices will be provided.