Kudos to Aisling Swaine

July 13th, 2015

AislingKudos to Professor Aisling Swaine for the release of a co- authored publication in the International Feminist Journal of Politics. The publication is titled, Monsters, Myths, Selfies and Grand Declarations. It is a conversational piece with Henri Myrttinen on the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, also known as the ESVC Summit, which was hosted in London in June 2014.

The summit occurred over the course of four days and several invited experts were at the meetings. The significance of this summit is that was a first. Not only were there experts, but there were also survivors that came to the summit, which was remarkable. In this publication, the question arises as to whether or not this was cause for celebration or if more questions should in fact be asked.”

The publication reports on the ideas and reactions to the summit with Aisling Swaine as an invited delegate and expert in the meetings and Myrttinen as a voice of NGOs in the event.

“I saw the Summit as a significant marker of progress. It was a symbolic embodiment of a slow attitudinal shift on the issue of conflict-related sexual assault. The presence of governments from around the world showed the weight now granted to this issue and the rightful position it has taken in state-level policy, domestic or foreign”, writes Swaine in the publication.

In upcoming August another one of Swaine’s articles, Exploring an Expanded Spectrum of Conflict- Time Violence Against Women, will be published in Human Rights Quarterly. In this she asks the questions: why does it matter whether violence is counted as conflict related? UNSCR resolutions list only strategic violence as a tactic of war, but what about political violence? Or private violence? According to Aisling this creates a hierarchy of harms.

In Monsters, Myths, Selfies and Grand Declarations, Swaine discusses the moving forward from this summit.

“What comes to be seen as “acting” under the Time to Act banner adopted by the Summit will be key. We know that the impacts of sexual violence are great, that they are far-reaching and that they extend beyond the temporal period for which any one conflict can secure the international community’s gaze”

Org Spotlight: Prajwala

July 9th, 2015


PrajwalaIn 1996, Jose Vetticatil and Dr. Sunitha Krishnan initiated Prajwala, which is an organization in Hyderbad, India that seeks to respond and intervene in the lives of women and children who are subjected to prostitution and human trafficking.

In the wake of globalization and the resultant marginalization and alienation of large sections of humanity, sex trafficking has become a matter of urgent concern today worldwide. In India alone, over 200 thousand women and children are inducted into the flesh trade every year. The state of Andhra Pradesh is one of the largest suppliers of women and children for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Economic hardships coupled with the prevailing status of women in society, and changing public attitudes towards sex and morality creates the context for the flourishing of this modern-day form of slavery.

The red light area of Hyderbad was evacuated in 1996, which caused thousands of women who worked as prostitutes to be displaced. For Vetticatil and Krishnan, it was this issue that started a passion for creating an organization that would assist in education and transition programs for the women. As the journey progressed, Prajwala was faced with the challenge of responding to other related issues such as sex trafficking of children. As the needs expanded so also the evolution of other interventions such as rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration and community based prevention.


Hillary Clinton talks gender at George Mason University

July 6th, 2015

by student contributor Laura Kilbury

Obama Announces Appointments Of Clinton, Gates, Nat'l Security Team“I’m on the side of everyone who’s ever been knocked down but refused to be knocked out,” she said. “I’m not running for some Americans, but for all Americans.”

The 2016 presidential race came to Virginia on Friday June, 26, ushered in by the roaring voice of Gov. Terry McAuliffe introducing Hillary Clinton. In her campaign stop in the state, the Democratic front-runner called for the protection of gay and abortion rights.

Clinton headlined the state Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson event, previously a formal dinner but this year held as a campaign event at George Mason University’s Patriot Center. The rally was billed as a “people’s event” and felt like a mix of high school pep rally and political convention; teleprompters and large projection screens adorned the stage while crowds ate popcorn in an arena where people usually watch basketball and concerts.

Clinton also touched on women’s equality in her speech, emphasizing women’s reproductive choices.

“Well, one thing’s for certain, we don’t need any more leaders who shame and blame women rather than respect our right to make our own reproductive health decisions.”

Snowballing off the release of the new book, The Hillary Doctrine, by Valerie Hudson and Patricia Liedl, one wonders how women’s equality- domestic and international- would be structured on Clinton’s agenda should she be elected as President.

Article of Note

July 6th, 2015

Women and Financialization: Microcredit, Institutional Investors, and MFIs

by Alicia Girón

ChosenLogo_V02This paper shows how microfinance acquires the face of women. While micro-finance institutions (MFIs) act under the flag of “serving the common good,” there are still the interests of institutional investors behind them, who are looking to profit through international financial circuits. On one hand, microfinance is part of financial innovation in the global financial circuits. On the other hand, women’s bancarization inserts them into the labor market, hence into the financial circuits. MFIs become part of the shadow financial system. When debating microcredit’s profitability from a gender perspective, I note both the financial effectiveness of microcredits and the role of women as highly profitable economic agents. Is there a relation between financialization and microcredit? Is microcredit an achievement that will improve the economic, political, and social environment for women? Why is it that women’s bancarization has been a priority of international financial organizations? Microcredit with a woman’s face confirms the suggested hypotheses. Their empowerment through microcredit is a new way for financial investors to obtain higher profits through MFIs. The highest interest rates that MFIs charges are an expression of financialization by institutional investors.

Journal of Economic Issues 49(2): 373-396, 2015. [not open access]

Org Spotlight: Girls Not Brides

July 2nd, 2015

Girls Not Brides

girlsnotbrides3Girls Not Brides is a global partnership of more than 450 civil society organizations from over 70 countries working to address child marriage. Members are based throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas and are united by a strong  commitment to end child marriage and enable girls to have access to greater opportunities.

The organization is  working to bring child marriage to global attention, to build an understanding of what it will take to end child marriage and is calling for the laws, policies and programs to be put in place that will make a difference in the life of millions of girls. Girls Not Brides is aiming to raise a voice that will shatter aim to raise the silence that has long surrounded the issue of child marriage and to draw attention to its harmful impact. As well as giving a voice to the voiceless, the organization also tries to support children who are or have been victims of child marriage, to increase awareness of the scale and impact of child marriage, and to mobilize the support and resources needed to end child marriage.

There is an advocacy component to Girls Not Brides, which is that the organization is campaigning for the assurance that no child will be married before the age of 18, which is in coordination with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which all but two nations have ratified.

Girls Not Brides, believes that what makes them stronger is using the voice of the organization to amplify the collective voices of the children that they aim to protect.


The Hillary Doctrine:Sex and American Foreign Policy, To the day that the Hillary Doctrine becomes “unremarkable”

June 29th, 2015

by student contributor Laura Kilbury


On the 24th at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Valerie Hudon and Patricia Leidl discussed their new book, The Hillary Doctrine: Sex & American Foreign Policy, and its paramount importance for the United States in junction with national security priorities.

During her confirmation hearing to become secretary of state, Hillary Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in no uncertain terms, “I want to pledge to you that as secretary of state I view women’s issues as central to our foreign policy, not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser than all of the other issues that we have to confront.”

The “doctrine” comes from a proposition that Clinton made at the TEDWomen Conference in December 2010: “The subjugation of women is, therefore, a threat to the common security of our world and to the national security of our country.” In countries where women are chronically mistreated, or systematically excluded from leadership roles, there tends to be far greater state fragility, outbreaks and reoccurrences of conflict, and environments where extremists can flourish, including even terrorist organizations.

Research for the book began in 2010, and the content was largely written in 2013, after Hudson’s co- author Patricia Leidl completed fieldwork in several countries. Hudson emphasized the role that qualitative data played in their research. Data on cultural norms, customs, practices and laws were missing from the current research, so Hudson and Leidl created a massive database to fill this niche. One might wonder why the idea that women’s security affects national security is called the Hillary Doctrine. Hudson explained that though Clinton was the third female Secretary of State, she was the first woman in that role who made women’s issue priorities for the Department. The book, though not about Secretary Clinton herself, explores the effects that her belief in this idea has had on American foreign policy.

The first part of the book—based on interviews with government officials like Swanee Hunt, Andrew Natsios, Paula Dobriansky, and Melanne Verveer—consists of a helpful history of how women’s issues became prominent in U.S. foreign policymaking during the 1990s. This included milestones like UN Security Council Resolution 1325, the first resolution to address the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women, as well as the role of women in conflict prevention and resolution; the publication of the first U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security; and the difficulties and haphazard manner that the military and USAID have experienced in incorporating women’s issues into foreign operations.

The second section focuses on the theory and cases that explore whether the Hillary Doctrine is justified. Hudson discussed that her past research reveals the doctrine is in fact based on a solid premise. She presented the theoretical argument for what she and Leidl termed fempolitik, arguing that the realization that women’s security is closely linked to national security is a pillar of clear- eyed realpolitik. This then provides an argument that contends that that male-female relationships are a foundational issue, while poverty, explosive violence, ill health and other widespread problems are the macro consequences of women’s insecurity.

The third and last section of the book focuses on the implementation of the Hillary Doctrine from 2009-2013. Jen Klein, advisor to Secretary Clinton on global women’s issues, explained in an interview for the book that the State Department adopted four initial principles to guide their work on women. These principles stated that their work (1) would be non-partisan, (2) would not impose U.S. views or laws on others (indeed, the policies focused on the agenda enshrined in CEDAW, which the U.S. has not ratified), (3) must be based in evidence, even though the Department also thought it was the right thing to do, and (4) must demonstrate that the benefits created by such policies also apply to national security, not just women’s security. Though these principles were paired with strategic frameworks from major government organizations, Leidl explained that the disconnect between high-level policy and the actual work on the ground manifested itself in a fairly predictable fashion, citing some terribly ineffective initiatives.

At the end of the event, Leidl and Hudson noted some of the top priorities moving forward in a “to do list” fashion. These included using the bully pulpit to discuss women’s issues, developing hard targets and performance benchmarks on women’s inclusion, focusing on male accountability, and adding a jus ex bello element to the just war theory, one that focuses on the harms after war has ended that disproportionately affect women.

The authors then (with a confirming laugh in the room) eminently said that that the most important and elusive ingredient for implementing the Hillary Doctrine “can only come from the White House itself.” If a President Hillary Clinton is sworn into office on January 20, 2017, then there will be no more bureaucratic hurdles preventing the fuller implementation of the Hillary Doctrine. Would we learn if it isindeed a rhetoric, or the basis upon which U.S. foreign policy is developed and implemented?

At the end of the event, Hudson made a final and provoking note, “Here’s to the day the Hillary Doctrine becomes unremarkable.”

What will it mean in the future when it is the norm to look at our national security through a genderedlens? When placing women at the forefront of a national security agenda is the way to look at things that is when the Hillary Doctrine will persist.


Org Spotlight: NAWJ

June 25th, 2015

National Association of Women Judges

NAWJThe National Association of Women Judges’ mission is to: Promote the judicial role of protecting the rights of individuals under the rule of law through strong, committed, diverse judicial leadership, fairness and equality in the courts, and equal access to justice.

NAWJ is the nation’s leading voice for women jurists dedicated to preserving judicial independence, ensuring equal justice and access to the courts for women, minorities and other historically disfavored groups, providing judicial education on cutting-edge issues, and increasing the numbers and advancement of women judges at all levels to more accurately reflect their full participation in a democratic society. The organization’s ultimate goal is to  provide unique opportunities for members to enrich their professional lives, keep aware of important issues, and network while contributing to social justice. NAWJ welcomes both men and women, as well as judicial clerks, attorneys and law students.

Since its formation in 1979, NAWJ has fought to preserve judicial independence, to ensure equal justice and access to the courts for women, minorities, and other historically disfavored groups, and to achieve fairness and equality for vulnerable populations. Led by two visionary women – Justice Joan Dempsey Klein and Justice Vaino Spencer – 100 brave and intrepid women judges met and formed an organization dedicated to the above ideals. Throughout its history, NAWJ has been providing judicial education on cutting-edge issues; striving to develop judicial leaders; increasing the number of women on the bench at all levels in order for the judiciary to more accurately reflect the role of women in a democratic society; and improving the administration of justice to provide gender-fair decisions for both male and female litigants.

Article of Note

June 24th, 2015

The Political Economy of “Transnational Business Feminism:” Problematizing the Corporate-Led Gender Equality Agenda

by Adrienne Roberts
journalThis article traces the emergence of a politico-economic project of “transnational business feminism” (TBF) over the past decade. This project – which is being developed by a coalition of states, financial institutions, the UN, corporations, NGOs and others – stresses the “business case” for gender equality by arguing that investments made in women can (and should) be measured in terms of the cost savings to families and communities, as well as in terms of boosting corporate profitability and national competitiveness. This article uses a feminist historical materialist framework to argue that TBF is facilitating the further entrenchment of the power of corporations to create “expert” knowledges about both “gender” and “development.” Using the Nike-led “Girl Effect” campaign as an example, it is argued that TBF is promoting a naturalized and essentialized view of women and gender relations that ignores the historical and structural causes of poverty and gender-based inequality. It is also helping to reproduce the same neoliberal macroeconomic framework that has created and sustained gender-based and other forms of oppression via the global feminization of labor, the erosion of support for social reproduction and the splintering of feminist critiques of capitalism.International Feminist Journal of Politics 17(2):209-231. 2015 [not open access]
DOI: 10.1080/14616742.2013.849968

Smart Women, Smart Power: Townsend

June 22nd, 2015

by student contributor Laura Kilbury


A common face on CNN, Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security and counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush, spoke candidly Thursday evening at CSIS’s Smart Women, Smart Power conversations series.

Townsend’s rise is particularly shiny when one looks into her childhood. She was the first person in her family to graduate high school. Her mother was a bookkeeper and her father was a roofer. When Townsend graduated from law school, her mother received her GED. Townsend had no knowledge up to that point that her mother hadn’t graduated from high school.

Townsend came to the White House from the U. S. Coast Guard, where she had served as the first Assistant Commandant for Intelligence. Prior to that, Townsend spent 13 years at the U. S. Department of Justice under the administrations of President H.W. Bush, President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.  She served in a variety of senior positions including as Counsel to the Attorney General for Intelligence Policy. Townsend began her prosecutorial career in 1985, serving as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, New York.

Being the first woman to be the director of Homeland Security, Nina Easton, the moderator, asked Townsend if she “felt the burden?”

“I had to be right every day”, Townsend responded.

The post 9/11 era of counterterrorism has given Townsend a unique and valuable perspective in the field of international and national security. A perspective that she admits as, “provocative”. She believes that we need to take the situation with ISIS “more seriously” and that we need a “strategy”. Noting that the thing that makes ISIS “dangerous” is their ability to mobilize and recruit others, including women, to their cause.

As Townsend discussed the victories and shortcomings of the U.S.’s policies regarding terrorism and security, there was one vital point missing from the conversation. The subjugation of women is a threat to general security of the world and to our own national security. When one looks at the countries that our nation deems a security threat, there is a common theme: the systematic oppression of women.

The ultimate purpose of the Smart Women, Smart Power series is to shed light on prominent and inspiring women and the achievements they have garnered. These women are successful and bright, and more importantly, they give hope that more women can share in these roles.

Until we put women and the forefront of our national security agenda, instability in states will perpetuate. The moment that we realize that the security of women equals the security of the world, we will see no progress in the fight against terror.

Article of Note

June 17th, 2015

Women and Land Deals in Africa and Asia: Weighing the Implications and Changing the Game

by Elizabeth Daley and Sabine Pallas

Feminist_Economics_(journal)_March_2000Large-scale land deals have attracted much attention from media and policymakers, and several international initiatives are attempting to regulate and address the impacts of such deals. Little attention has been paid to the gendered implications of such deals in the literature, and most regulatory initiatives do not address gender adequately. To fill this gap, this contribution identifies implications of land deals for women and recommends measures to mitigate negative impacts. It reviews evidence from four case studies commissioned for the International Land Coalition (ILC) Global Study of Commercial Pressures on Land conducted in 2010. The evidence is analyzed within a framework that posits women’s vulnerability to land deals as due to four dimensions of underlying discrimination. This study analyzes three of these dimensions in depth, arguing that women are likely to be affected differently by land deals and
disproportionately more likely to be negatively affected than men.

Feminist Economics 20(1): 178-201, 2014 [not open access]
DOI: 10.1080/13545701.2013.860232