Blog: Gender Equality

May 20, 2016

Video Slideshow: “Women’s Voices Matter” in Myanmar

Posted by Cara Solomon and Tyler Giannini

The International Human Rights Clinic had the great honor last month of hosting a three-day workshop in Yangon for some of the leading women advocates in Myanmar- all of them pioneers in their various fields, and all of them pushing for change. The training, facilitated by The Op-Ed Project, focused on voice and messaging in the media’s opinion sections, where women’s bylines are too rarely found.

The title of the workshop: “Write to Change the World.” Below, some images from those three days, with thanks and appreciation for what these women have done to strengthen the world already, and what they will surely do in the decades to come.

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January 26, 2016

Moving on from the Human Rights Program (a note from Mindy Jane Roseman)

Posted by Mindy Roseman

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

After ten years as Academic Director at the Human Rights Program, and many years before that as a collaborator at the Harvard School of Public Health, I write to let you know that I am leaving HRP, effective February 5, 2016.  I will be joining Yale Law School as Director of both its International Programs and its Gruber Program on Global Justice and Women’s Rights. This was not an easy decision, especially since it means I will be warming the bench from the other side of the basketball court.

There are many communities at Harvard Law School that are dear to me, but I cherish HRP – its work, staff, faculty, students, alumni – perhaps above all. I’ll still be on campus this semester (teaching a seminar), and my email will be active through June.

I hope to stay in touch and wish you all the best of luck.



March 13, 2014

Tomorrow, March 12: “Legal Feminism in Latin America” and “Honoring Nelson Mandela”

As we round the corner on Friday, here are two events we think are definitely worth your time tomorrow.

The first,  “Legal Feminism in Latin America,” is a breakfast talk by Professors Cristina Jaramillo and Paola Bergallo, who will discuss challenges the region faces with regard to reproductive rights. The talk is being organized by the SJD Association and the Harvard Women’s Law Association.

Later that day, at noon, HLS has organized a panel, “In Honor of Nelson Mandela,” which will explore the question of when, if ever, violence is justified in the fight for social change. Our very own Susan Farbstein will be on the panel, which Prof. Charles Ogletree is moderating. Details of both events below.


“Legal Feminism in Latin America”

When: 10:00 – 11: 30 a.m.

Where: WCC 3015

The SJD Association and the Women’s Law Association invite you to an informal breakfast talk by Professors Cristina Jaramillo and Paola Bergallo about legal feminism in Latin America and the challenges the region faces with regard to reproductive rights. Professor Jaramillo is an HLS alumnae and has been called upon as an expert by the Colombian Senate on issues of women’s political participation, divorce, and gender discrimination. Professor Bergallo is currently a visiting fellow at HLS and has been called as an expert by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Breakfast will be served. Please contact Regina Larrea if you are interested in attending.


“In Honor of Nelson Mandela”

When: 12:00 – 1: 00 p.m.

Where: Langdell 272

Please join Harvard Law School for a discussion about when, if ever, violence is justifiable in struggles for political or social change. Panelists: Mekonnen Firew Ayano, SJD Candidate; Randall Kennedy, HLS Michael R. Klein Professor of Law; Kerry Chance, American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellow, Harvard University Anthropology Department; Aminu Gamawa, SJD Candidate; and Susan Farbstein, HLS Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Co-Director of the International Human Rights Clinic. Moderator: Charles Ogletree, HLS Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice.

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February 27, 2014

Tomorrow, Feb. 28: “Trangender Identity, Mental Health, and Human Rights: The DSM V and Beyond”

Event Notice


“Trangender Identity, Mental Health, and Human Rights: The DSM V and Beyond”

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Hauser 102

Light lunch will be served


Please join us for a discussion with panelists: Sara Kimmel, staff psychologist at Harvard University Student Mental Health Services; Eszter Kismödi, international human rights lawyer on sexual and reproductive health law, policy, and research; Zack Paakkonen, staff attorney with GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project; and moderator Mindy Roseman, Academic Director of the Human Rights Program and Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School.

This event is being co-sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute, HLS Lambda, and the Petrie-Flom Center

April 5, 2013

Coming Monday, April 8: “Women Attorneys Working with International Clients”

Event Notice

Monday, April 8, 2013

“Women Attorneys Working with International Clients:

Challenges and Advantages”

12- 1 pm

WCC 3018

Explore the challenges and advantages of working with international clients as a women attorney with practitioners from both the public and private sectors. Panelists include Susan Farbstein, Clinical Professor in the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic and co-counsel in In re South African Apartheid Litigation; Meeta Anand, an associate in the White & Case LLP project finance group with extensive experience working with Latin American clients, both as an attorney and an investment banker; and Carolina Walther-Meade, a partner in the Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy Project Finance and Latin American Practice Groups who spends a significant amount of time in the firm’s São Paulo office.

The attorneys will discuss issues ranging from the role that gender plays in client interactions, potential problems that may arise, and strategies for addressing these problems. Professor Fionnuala Ni Aolain, who has served as expert and consultant to the UN OHCHR and UN WOMEN and for the Office of the UN Secretary-General, will moderate.

Co-sponsored by the Milbank Tweed Student Conference Fund


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March 20, 2013

Iraqi Civilians and U.S. Veterans Come Together to Demand the Right to Heal

Posted by Cara Solomon, Deborah Popowski and Stella Kim, JD '13

Yesterday, on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we joined our coalition partners in the launch of the Right to Heal initiative, a collaboration between Iraq Veterans Against the War  (IVAW), the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), and the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), as well as other supporting organizations. One by one, standing in front of the White House, members of IVAW and OWFI delivered the message that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not over for them.

On the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Joyce Wagner, member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, gives testimony in front of the White House. Drake Logan, a member of the Civilian-Soldier Alliance, stands beside her.

On the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Joyce Wagner, member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, gives testimony about the oppression of women on both sides of the conflict. Drake Logan, a member of the Civilian-Soldier Alliance, stands beside her.

The organizations, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, announced that they would file a petition for a thematic hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, calling for U.S. accountability for the human cost of these wars. In testimonies that were both moving and motivating, speakers on both sides of the U.S.-led conflict in Iraq described the toll that a decade of war had taken on their communities, including the loss of thousands of lives; devastating trauma and injury with shamefully inadequate or non-existent medical care; a legacy of health and environmental poisoning due to toxic munitions and burn pits; gender-based violence as a weapon and byproduct of war; and a generation of orphans and displaced people.

Joyce Wagner, a longtime member of IVAW, spoke about the violence the war had unleashed on women, and specifically, about her experience with Military Sexual Trauma. We thank her for allowing us to reprint her comments below:

In recent years, the United Nations has taken a strong stance against gender-based violence, calling it a “pandemic” that concerns not only women, but every single person on the planet.

Worldwide, it is estimated that one in five women will be raped in her lifetime. In the US military, it is estimated that one in three women will be raped during her time in service. I am the one in three. Continue Reading…

March 11, 2013

SAVE THE DATE: Special Event to Mark the 10th Anniversary of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq

March 26, 2013

“For Us, The Wars Aren’t Over: The Right to Heal Initiative”

7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Wasserstein 2012

Food will be served

Ten years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Human Rights Program and organizations from across the Harvard and Boston communities mark the anniversary with speakers from two groups still living with the consequences of the last decade of U.S.-led wars: Iraqis and U.S. veterans and service members.  Members of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq and Iraq Veterans Against the War will speak about the costs of war they share.  Together with attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights and Harvard Law School, they will discuss the Right to Heal Initiative, the partnership they have formed to fight for redress.


Yanar Mohammed, President, Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq
Ms. Mohammed is the founder of OWFI, a nongovernmental organization that promotes women’s rights and interests in Iraq.  She will speak about OWFI’s work in an Iraqi town near a U.S. military base that has seen dramatic increases in the incidence of birth defects, cancers, and other severe health ailments.

Matt Howard, Member, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Mr. Howard served two tours in Iraq with the Marine Corps.  He will discuss the costs of war for U.S. service members and veterans, particularly the obstacles that prevent too many from receiving proper medical and mental health care.  IVAW and its subcommittee, Afghan Veterans Against the War, have advocated for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and for reparations to Iraqis for the costs of war.

Pamela Spees, Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights

Ms. Spees will discuss CCR’s role as a support player in the Right to Heal’s collaborative project to ensure the U.S. takes concrete steps for health care, accountability, and reparations.

Moderator: Deborah Alejandra Popowski, Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

This event is being co-sponsored by: HLS Advocates for Human Rights, Harvard National Security and Law Association, Islamic Society of Boston, National Lawyers Guild (Mass. Chapter), Veterans for Peace (Ch. 9, Smedley D. Butler Brigade), BC Law Holocaust/Human Rights Project, HKS Human Rights Professional Interest Council, HLS American Constitution Society, HLS Democrats, HLS Human Rights Journal, Harvard International Law Journal, HLS Muslim Law Students Association, Harvard Women’s Law Association, HSPH Muslim Student Group, MIT Amnesty International, MIT Center for International Studies, MIT Muslim Student Association, Northeastern Univ. Arab Student Association, Human Rights Caucus at Northeastern Univ. School of Law, Tufts Univ. New Initiative for Middle East Peace, Tufts Univ. Fletcher School Human Rights Project

March 5, 2013

School Pregnancy Case Before South Africa’s Constitutional Court Today

Posted by Susan Farbstein

Our partner in South Africa, Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), is appearing as an amicus curiae before the Constitutional Court today in a case that will determine whether school governing bodies can suspend pregnant students.  EELC will help to challenge lower court decisions holding that a provincial Head of Department cannot instruct a principal to ignore a school governing body pregnancy policy, even when that policy results in the unlawful suspension students on the grounds of pregnancy.

EELC, in support of the Head of Department, contends that the school governing body’s pregnancy policies unfairly discriminate on the basis of gender and pregnancy, violate female students’ right to a basic education, and are not in the best interest of the child or the circumstances of affected students.  In addition, the school governing bodies’ actions violate national and provincial policies which seek to ensure that pregnant students are able and encouraged to attend school as long as they are physically capable, and return to school as soon as possible after giving birth.

More information about the case, as well as relevant court documents, are available here.

February 21, 2013

The Long-Awaited Apology: Some Justice for the Women of Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries

Posted by Cara Solomon

In the wake of the Irish government’s formal apology to the women of the Magdalene Laundries, we bring you some thoughts from Maeve O’Rourke, 2010 HRP Global Human Rights Fellow and advisory board member for Justice for Magdalenes. For the past two years, Maeve has been working with the all-volunteer advocacy group to secure a formal apology and reparations for the more than 10,000 women forced to work in residential laundries from 1922 until 1996.

“Brilliant news on Tuesday in Dublin – a full state apology for the Magdalene Laundries abuse and the appointment of former High Court judge and head of the Irish Law Reform Commission, Mr. Justice John Quirke, to provide a mechanism for compensation and reparation.

We are exhausted and delighted for the women and their families. As I said in the Irish Independent last Saturday, they have lived with this truth for too long – that the state could have intervened to protect them and ensure respect for their human rights, but chose not to.

This is an historic moment for Ireland, as we awaken to and acknowledge the discrimination against women that went to the very core of our state and society for so long. Continue Reading…

February 7, 2013

Irish Government Acknowledges Role in Magdalene Laundries; Offers No Apology or Reparations

Posted by Cara Solomon

For a while now, this blog has followed Maeve O’Rourke, LLM ’10, a former Global Human Rights Fellow, as she works with other advocates to secure reparations for thousands of women and girls who labored in Ireland’s so-called Magdalene Laundries. Tuesday marked a milestone for the group, Justice for Magdalenes: After years of ignoring the issue, the Irish government released a 1000-page report into the laundries, which were run by various orders of nuns from 1922 to 1996.

The Good Shepherd Convent/Magdalene Asylum, which operated as a residential laundry until the late 1970s. Photo courtesy of Tarquin Blake

A residential laundry at the Good Shepherd Convent/Magdalene Asylum. Photo: Tarquin Blake

For the first time, the government acknowledged its own “significant” role in the forced labor: more than a quarter of the women and girls in the laundries were referred there by the government. Some came from the criminal justice system, prosecuted for nothing more than petty theft; others came from residential institutions; still others from homes for unwed mothers.

After decades of speculation, the government also confirmed a number: more than 10,000 women and girls worked in the laundries. The youngest was 9. The oldest was 89. The average age was 23.

For all the report’s revelations, the government’s formal response to it on Tuesday fell stunningly short. In comments before the Irish Parliament, Prime Minister Enda Kenny expressed mostly sorrow. There was no apology for the government’s role. There was no talk of reparations.

Continue Reading…