Institute Already A World Player
Published: Friday, February 14, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 14, 2014 02:02
The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security has striven to incorporate the female role in peace and security agreements, negotiations and movements since its inception in December 2011. It is now at the forefront of women’s involvement in international affairs characterized by a rapidly changing global landscape.
“The institute was established with an ambitious but focused objective: to serve as a hub for knowledge, innovation, research, information and a platform to better understand and illustrate to the effect of women’s participation in peace and security efforts and what impact that has,” GIWPS Assistant Director Mayesha Alam said.
The institute, which was launched by honorary founding chair Hillary Rodham Clinton, has been hailed as a vital effort to ensure women’s roles in peacekeeping efforts.
“We are trying to look at the gap about why women are such powerful actors in the grassroots civil-society sector but their role is not translated into formal peace negotiations. Why aren’t women getting a seat at the table?” GIWPS Research Assistant Hannah Beswick (GRD ’14) said.
Currently, the institute is focusing on how women find success in peacekeeping negotiations.
“Right now we are trying to narrow our case studies and focus on cases where women were active in civil-society efforts but also active in the actual, formal process. We’re looking at these success stories to see what made these women successful,” Beswick said.
On campus, the institute, which is housed in the School of Foreign Service, created its first graduate-level seminar this semester: “Women, Peace and Security.” The course is jointly led by Alam and GIWPS Executive Director Melanne Verveer (I ’66, GRD ’69).
“It is extremely important because, as an educational institution, we are supposed to be preparing the next generation of leaders and well-equipped professionals no matter what arena you go into. More and more there are issues related to peace and security, and it is no longer just left to politicians and government officials,” Alam said.
GIWPS provides research assistant and fellowship program opportunities; it also allocates a small research fund for faculty to encourage those interested in women’s peace and security.
The directors of the institute are accessible to students due to the intimate nature of these programs.
“Because the institute is small and relatively new, it is all very personal. Even with how busy Mayesha is, she has still been able to get me on Ambassador Verveer’s schedule. They have been super helpful to students,” said Student Contributor Jenna Sackler (SFS ’14), who is an Institute for the Study of Diplomacy Humes Fellow.
The institute, which is under the guidance of SFS Dean Carol Lancaster, is steered by a three-person faculty committee: Robert Egnell, the institute’s senior research advisor who is director of teaching and a visiting associate professor in the security studies program, Susan Martin, the director of the Institute of the Study of Migration and Katherine Marshall, an SFS faculty member and senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Its home within the SFS has allowed it to gain attention on the international stage.
“Georgetown, especially the SFS, is a pretty big name school and it is very visible. The institute helps to bring the issue of women and security to the international stage to Georgetown in a much bigger way than it has before,” Sackler said.
Verveer described the reception the institute has received as positive.
“I would say that it has been particularly gratifying to get more support from multilateral institutions, from upper governments, from government leaders, from people who understand the importance of the issue, and our plea is that we have such a singular focus in the importance for research on these issues, so the receptivity has been particularly encouraging,” Verveer said.
The GIWPS serves the Georgetown community through promoting awareness, research and discussion. It has organized events like “Advancing Afghan Women: Promoting Peace and Progress in Afghanistan,” in which Secretary of State John Kerry, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton spoke.
“The event was a huge statement that the institute is a really big player in the field and a really important source of information for activism and research,” Student Contributor Rachel Firestone (GRD ’15) said.