Celebration Marks Launch of GW Global Women’s Institute

November 27, 2012

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Lynn Rosenthal, White House adviser on violence against women, spoke at the launch of the GW Global Women's Institute.

A special rendition of “She’s Got the Whole World in Her Hands” by GW Music Department faculty members Millicent Scarlett and Malinee Peris heralded the launch of the university’s newest interdisciplinary initiative.

The George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute (GWI), a university-wide initiative that promotes and supports the rights of women and girls worldwide, launched on Tuesday at a special event in Marvin Center’s Great Hall.

The event featured remarks by Global Women’s Institute Director Mary Ellsberg; Lynn Rosenthal, White House adviser on violence against women; senior Melissa Wong, co-president of GW GlobeMed, a student-run nonprofit that advocates for public health equity; and George Washington President Steven Knapp.

The Global Women’s Institute will link faculty and students at the George Washington University with international researchers, practitioners, activists and policymakers to improve the situation of women and girls internationally through research, education and civic engagement.

In her remarks, Dr. Ellsberg noted the George Washington University’s history of empowering students to change the world and the impressive research of its faculty--research that sheds light on critical global issues and informs public policy.

“By coming together as researchers, activists, students and community members, we forge a powerful force for ending discrimination and empowering women and girls across the globe,” she said. “I am proud to lead this new and exciting institute, which builds onto already existing GW programs to support and improve the lives of women and girls.”

Ms. Rosenthal said she was honored to be participating in the launch and celebration of GWI, and praised Dr. Knapp and Dr. Ellsberg for their support and leadership on women’s issues.

“On behalf of President Obama and Vice President Biden, I want to thank all of you who brought us to this moment, for your commitment to improving the lives of women both here in the U.S. and all around the world,” she said.

Ms. Rosenthal outlined some of the progress the White House has made to prevent violence against women, including the passage of the Violence Against Women Act and the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

In August, Ms. Rosenthal and Dr. Ellsberg participated in a discussion at the White House to mark the release of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally, an executive order outlining for the first time the United States’ strategy for preventing and responding to gender-based violence around the world.

Despite the efforts made over the years by the federal government, Ms. Rosenthal said collaborations with institutes like GWI are critical to advance women’s issues. She said the Global Women’s Institute will play an important part in preventing violence against women.

“You bring us a level of collaboration and coordination that we have not had before,” she said. “You are part of something that I believe will literally change the world.”

In his remarks, Dr. Knapp discussed the conceptualization of GWI, which began in 2009 with a task force led by Barbara Miller, director of George Washington’s Institute for Global and International Studies. GWI is one of a series of interdisciplinary initiatives being launched at the university—including autism, cybersecurity, sustainability and urban food studies— to expand collaborative and cross-disciplinary research at George Washington.

Dr. Knapp said violence against women is an “urgent international issue” that needs to be addressed.

“If you’re looking for a lever to pull anywhere in the world that will simultaneously improve public health, advance economic development and reduce violence, it is the education and empowerment of women and girls,” he said.

The launch also kicked off a series of events to honor the international 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, commemorated annually Nov. 25 to Dec. 10.

Dr. Ellsberg noted the involvement of George Washington students, faculty and schools in the events, stating that the campaign is an opportunity to “showcase the enormous breadth and depth of experience and commitment of the GW community” around a number of issues, including child marriage, violence against transgender people and women in the military. 

“Perhaps, most importantly, it’s an opportunity for members of the GW community to join our voices with activists and world leaders to say no to violence, to affirm our conviction that violence is neither acceptable nor inevitable, and it must be stopped, not only internationally but on our own campus,” she said.

Dr. Ellsberg also praised George Washington’s Department of Athletics and Recreation for their “GW Athletics Stop Violence Against Women” video, which will play before the men's basketball game against Kansas State on Dec. 8.

In her remarks, Ms. Wong said she expects the Global Women’s Institute will become an integral part of the GW student experience.

“I am especially excited about the opportunity the Global Women’s Institute provides to students and student organizations alike,” she said. “While the institute will hold fantastic events related to gender equality, such as the upcoming 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, it will also act as a powerful tool for students, faculty and administrators to come together on global women’s issues.”