The Global Women’s Institute is hosting events in conjunction with the international campaign.
By Lauren Ingeno
For the following week, those at the George Washington University will learn about and speak up against violence experienced by migrant women as part of the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” international campaign, which kicked off on Nov. 25.
A recent report from the World Health Organization characterized gender-based violence as a global health epidemic, estimating that one in three women worldwide has faced intimate partner violence or sexual violence in her lifetime.
The 16 Days campaign, which originated in 1991 at Rutgers University’s Center for Women's Global Leadership, gives people around the world the opportunity to mobilize and fight for the elimination of this violence through education, conversation and activism.
Aiming to educate the university community on the importance of this issue, the GW Global Women’s Institute (GWI) will host four events from Dec. 5 until Dec. 10, all of which will focus on the experiences of migrant women.
“We hope that by celebrating these 16 days we will raise awareness so that GW faculty, staff and students can work to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls through their research, volunteering and community engagement,” said GWI Director Mary Ellsberg.
Dr. Ellsberg believes that comprehensive immigration reform and ending violence against women are two issues that are “intimately linked.” During a congressional briefing in November, Dr. Ellsberg advocated for the passage of immigration reform as well as the International Violence against Women Act (I-VAWA)—two pieces of legislation that she said could make a real difference in the lives of millions of women in Latin America, where gender-based violence is prevalent.
“It should be no surprise to us therefore that many women see fleeing the country as the only option for survival and look to the United States as a potential safe haven, only to find that their immigration status leaves them vulnerable to even more violence and exploitation,” Dr. Ellsberg said at the briefing.
The adoption of I-VAWA and comprehensive immigration reform would not only reduce gender-based violence worldwide, it would also reduce pressure on the already stressed U.S. immigration system, said Dr. Ellsberg. And the U.S. government should make protecting these women a top priority.
GWI will present its new policy brief on this topic at the 16 Days keynote event, “Violence against Women as a Cross Border Issue,” on Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. in 151 Duquès Hall. The panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Ellsberg, will bring together a group of experts to speak on the intersection of violence against women and immigration reform. Panelists will include Lynn Rosenthal, the White House advisor on violence against women, as well as representatives from We Belong Together, the National Organization for Women and the Tahirih Justice Center.
“We are very excited that we will be able to gather perspectives from a diverse group of leaders on this very important issue,” Dr. Ellsberg said. “Our policy brief will include discussion about how immigration reform must include a clear path to citizenship and how U.S. lawmakers should support policies that remove the causes of violence abroad.”
Continuing with this theme, GWI will screen the film, “María en tierra de nadie” ("Maria in Nobody's Land”), at the Elliott School of International Affairs room 113 on Thursday at 6 p.m. The documentary shows the immigration stories of three Salvadoran women on a dangerous journey through Mexico.
The institute will host a panel discussion addressing the dangers of human trafficking for women on Friday in the Elliott School of International Affairs City View Room at noon. Panelists will include adjunct professor Michele Clark and Polaris Project program specialist Lara Powers, among others.
On Saturday, GW students, faculty and staff are invited to volunteer at La Clínica del Pueblo, 2831 15th St., NW, a nonprofit health center that serves the Latino and immigrant populations of the Washington, D.C., metro area. In addition to serving with the center’s domestic violence campaign, volunteers will help the staff in maintaining facilities and records. To participate, RSVP to [email protected].