On April 13, 2017, the Hilton Prize Coalition and Atlas Corps, an international network of nonprofit leaders that facilitates overseas fellowships, co-hosted the first Global Changemakers event in Washington, DC. Both collaborative Fellows Programs were celebrated at the event, which brought together the two groups for an evening of networking.
With more than 70 in attendance, the evening consisted of remarks by Atlas Corps and Hilton Prize Coalition representatives, as well as stories from two Fellows, Maxi Salmon and Stefania Doebbel. Guests included staff and partners from both organizations, Fellows from both programs, mentors, and young professionals from the DC area interested in international affairs and nonprofit innovation. The themes of the event, which included the importance of coalition building and the value of expanding networks to create social change, resonated throughout the evening.
Maxsalia (Maxi) Salmon, an Atlas Corps Fellow from Jamaica currently serving at the Council on Foundations, shared her appreciation for the new partnership and the global footprint that will continue to grow from this effort. She shared with the audience reasons why this collaboration is remarkable, saying it is incredibly important that “both initiatives focus on building the next generation of dynamic leaders in the social sector.”
(Maxi Salmon speaking at the Global Changemakers Networking event, April 13, 2017)
Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow Stefania Doebbel shared the impact of her Fellowship through stories of LGBTI youth she met during her placement. At Covenant House International, Stefania is creating culturally sensitive training curricula for staff in Central America that is meant to build the capacity of staff service for LGBTI youth. She also highlighted the influence this placement has had on her professional development, ultimately allowing her to learn more about human rights policies in Central America.
A blog post by Stefania will be published soon on the Hilton Prize Coalition website.
Visit the Coalition’s Flickr album to view more images from the event.
In this post by youth psychologist Gabriela Monroy, readers are offered a glimpse inside one of the projects currently being implemented under the Hilton Prize Coalition's Collaborative Models Program. Coalition members Covenant House International and the IRCT (the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims) are working together to develop a comprehensive set of materials on issues related to trauma informed care. These materials will be used for training and as reference for healthcare workers and specialists to better understand the effects of trauma and how to approach traumatized youth.
Reflections on Working with Survivors of Violence and Torture
by Gabriela Monroy
I am a psychologist at La Alianza, Covenant House International’s (CHI) safe house for trafficked and sexually exploited girls in Guatemala. I am also the CHI regional coordinator in Latin America for the Hilton Prize Coalition's Collaborative Models Program on trauma-informed care, which is being carried out by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and CHI. I was invited to attend the 10th International Scientific Symposium organized by the IRCT in December 2016 in Mexico City. When I received the invitation, I very much looked forward to the opportunity to learn from survivors of torture and those who work to support them. I knew I had much to learn and much to share. After three days of listening to the presentations and experiences from different countries, I began to realize that in many countries across the globe like mine, “normal” is similar to a war zone where death, torture, rape, abuse and abandonment of children is the norm and life is a continuum of traumatic events. The exception is a moment of human and humane interaction--which is what we strive to accomplish at La Alianza.
At La Alianza, young girls who are survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation find an environment that offers them the opportunity to finally be treated as human beings, in a dignified, respectful and non-violent way. For some of them, the violence in their lives has been so overwhelming that it can feel traumatic to be treated in such a humane fashion. Using a trauma informed care lens in my day-to-day work as a youth psychologist, I see, after some time of working with them, that the impact on their lives is visible. Society seems so surprised at the transformation that care, affection, and dignified treatment can produce. It is ironic because acting in a humane way should be the most common thing we do as humans, yet it still surprises us even more than the violence itself.
Every single presentation at the Symposium presented the testimonies and experiences of survivors on this continuum of violence and torture as examples of integrity and dignity. This simple reflection on my experience of this symposium hopefully will be a recognition and a homage to their courage and an expression of my respect for each one’s journey and all they have gone through.
When we work with persons who have been tortured or victims of violence without seriously questioning and denouncing the existence of this continuum of violence, we run the risk that our support can become yet another act of violence, even without intending so. And because of this, as professionals and as members of humanitarian organizations, it is necessary to develop an internal alarm system sensitive to this reality.
Also, we need to realize that best practices for dealing with survivors of torture and violence need to be based in respect for their day-to-day experience and respect for the ways they have survived, and if we can recognize this then we may be able to transform the norm that violence has become into the exception. This is my hope. I am grateful to the Hilton Prize Coalition for giving me the opportunity to be a witness to such courage.
(Gabriela Monroy, right, with one of her patients at La Alianza in Guatemala)
Meriam Salem is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow based at Global Impact. During her fellowship, she had the opportunity to participate in the filming of the "Leading Thoughts" video series of the Storytelling Program. Here are some of her reflections on that experience.
As a student studying international development and human rights, much of my understanding of the field is rooted in theoretical frameworks and case studies that have historically changed perceptions of development work. I can describe trends in international aid, key public and private organizations, and the formation of the United Nations, but like with most theoretical classes, there is a learning gap between theory and practice. Students like me are encouraged to seek mentors for guidance as we prepare to go out into the field. Our mentors range from professors and internship supervisors, but rarely do we have a significant encounter with a CEO whose ethos and vision are the clockwork foundation of critical organizations.
The Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program’s video series, “Leading Thoughts,” offers opportunities for those interested in learning more about the humanitarian field and international development to hear directly from the mouths of the Hilton Prize Laureate organizations’ CEOs. Through my role as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow based at Global Impact, I had the opportunity to sit in on an interview for one of these videos. This interview was with Victor Madrigal-Borloz, who is Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). Hearing about Mr. Madrigal-Borloz’s career trajectory, his background as a human rights lawyer, and his current position with the IRCT helped with my own understanding of philosophical frameworks operating at an organizational level. Observing the interview, I thought, “here is a person who truly believes that torture is unjust,” and I saw a CEO who carries that philosophical belief throughout the organization’s framework. In an hour alone, I learned so much about the work of great international NGOs and the growing demand for collaboration through the conversation with Mr. Madrigal-Borloz.
(Meriam, middle, with HPC Fellows Program alum Rachel Francis and Anna Russell during an afternoon of filming for the Storytelling Program)
Through this series and other opportunities, the Hilton Prize Coalition brings in leaders and experts in the field from the Hilton Prize Coalition member organizations to mentor and provide guidance for young professionals like myself. More importantly, the documentaries and videos being produced through the Storytelling Program allow for information and lessons learned from a transforming field to be more accessible to different audiences. Whether the viewers are young professionals or seasoned veterans, being able to hear the experiences of chief executives is valuable regardless of the level of experience or position a person holds in an organization.
A clip from Mr. Madrigal-Borloz’s interview as well as other “Leading Thoughts” videos can be found on the Hilton Prize Coalition’s Story Wall.
Sumnima Shrestha is the Communication and Resource Mobilization Manager with Heifer International – Nepal. She currently serves as Collaboration Coordinator for the Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal. Sumnima holds more than 9 years of experience in the development sector, especially in advocacy, networking and resource mobilization, program development, project management, community empowerment and entrepreneurship. Here, Sumnima reflects on the Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning (DPRP) workshop held on March 2-3, 2017 in Kathmandu.
Hilton Laureates in Nepal Join Hands for Disaster Preparedness and Response
by Sumnima Shrestha
Getting different organizations and people together on one platform, and building a common understanding among them is a challenging part of any coalition. The Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal is unique in itself. Coalition member organizations are working in diverse sectors with varied missions ranging from income and food security to disability and health. They have fascinating stories of their own, their interests are different, and above all, they are busy. When I became Collaboration Coordinator under the Coalition’s Collaborative Models Program, I had to overcome the challenge of making myself and others motivated and comfortable. I took this as an opportunity and met with each of the members, learned about their interests and worked to define one common goal to achieve greater collective impact for the world’s most vulnerable people.
The Hilton Prize Coalition in Nepal first came together under the 2016 Storytelling Program and included BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, Help Age International, Operation Smile and SOS Children’s Villages. Similarly, there are Hilton Laureates - Clubhouse International, ECPAT, the IRCT, Landesa, and PATH - working in Nepal with their local partners whose proactive participation has added tremendous value to the Coalition.
A common footprint manifested by each of the Coalition members was their involvement in relief and response activities during the April 2015 Nepal mega-earthquake. Though disaster relief is not the primary mission of all of these organizations, they moved out of their comfort zones and brought extraordinary results towards relief and recovery, benefiting thousands of people. Based on the lessons learned by the members and their interest to rise up during humanitarian crises, the need of a joint plan for future disaster preparedness and response was realized. A workshop on “Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning (DPRP)” was designed with objectives to understand disaster preparedness and emergency response as an integral part of development, and to develop joint response plans for working together in future natural disasters.
A total of 18 participants from 10 Coalition member organizations attended the workshop March 2-3, 2017 in Kathmandu. The theoretical sessions built capacity of the participants on disaster management cycles, preparedness and response, a vulnerability assessment tool for preparedness, and linkages with development interventions they are currently implementing. Phanindra Adhikari from CVICT, an IRCT member organization, described the event as “a wonderful experience. I had opportunity to gain knowledge as well as share my learning.”
The sessions were enriched by stories and experience-sharing of the participants. Said Sheetal Tuladhar of BRAC, “Sharing experiences of participating organizations was the most valuable part of this workshop...being a beginner in the development and humanitarian sectors, it was especially valuable to learn these concepts and match them with organizational experiences.” Moreover, the group discussion on institutional mechanisms of disaster preparedness was eye-opening to the participants. The workshop focused on developing objectives of joint disaster preparedness and concluded with an official response plan of the Coalition. A task force comprising of BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, and SOS Children's Villages was formed for completing this plan.
The 2-day workshop with networking and team-building activities helped to strengthen these formal and informal connections, as well as personal relationships among Coalition members. One of the participants commented, “This workshop provided a platform for networking with such good organizations and I also got to learn more about them. This helped me for future collaborations, and I will definitely work towards it.”
Without a doubt, this workshop helped to establish unity in diversity. The beauty of this Coalition is that there is no competition between its members. Each are working in individual themes that are not overlapping with each other; integrating these themes results in holistic development. The Storytelling Program pilot advanced this collaboration and I am happy to be a part of this journey.
(Group photo of workshop participants)
Hilda Nyatete recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with the IRCT – the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. The IRCT serves as an umbrella organization for over 150 member centers that aid survivors of torture in more than 70 countries, advocating for the right to holistic rehabilitation and providing victims with clinical, legal and social assistance. Originally from Kenya, Hilda has a deep background and expertise in trauma counseling, particularly in the area of gender based violence. She holds a Master’s Degree in Developmental Psychology from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.
In this blog post, she writes about the importance of comprehensive clinical documentation and the IRCT’s Data in the Fight against Impunity (DFI) project.
(Participants from different organizations working on clinical documentation under the DFI project with support from the IRCT; IRCT Scientific Symposium in Mexico City)
My work at the Independent Medico Legal Unit (IMLU) revolves around ensuring that victims of torture and their families receive psychological support both at the individual and group level. IMLU has been a member of the IRCT for many years, and has become the premier organization supporting victims of torture in Kenya. It supports an average of 500 victims of torture annually.
Working with survivors and families of victims of torture is not an easy task. Listening to survivors recount painful, dehumanizing and degrading memories of torture in the hands of the government invokes a hunger and drive to keep fighting for the rights of the underserved. One of the challenges my team constantly has to tackle is the victim's fear, which often leads to a low level or a complete lack of cooperation when reporting cases of torture. This is due to intimidation by the perpetrators, who not only deny any accusations of wrongdoing but may also put forward fabricated charges against the victims, which piles onto their fear. The fear and intimidation have caused us to be very intentional in involving clients throughout the process of reporting, entering data about their case from intake, during service provision, and until the client is released from active medical support and counseling; that way, the clients understand the critical role their information plays in allowing them to achieve justice.
With 25% of cases going to court, IMLU works with a network of professionals who provide critical documentation of torture and ill treatment in legal proceedings. These evaluations and subsequent documentation take place all over the country. The purpose of the medical and psychological evaluation is twofold: to provide an expert opinion on the degree to which findings correlate with the alleged victim’s allegation of torture, and to effectively communicate the clinician’s findings and interpretations to the judiciary or other appropriate authorities. It is key that clinical documentation is done diligently and in a clear and concise manner to ensure that justice is served.
To face the challenges of threats, intimidation, and a tedious documentation process, IMLU developed a database system which was officially launched in 2015. The system goes beyond data entry about the clients' respective cases, enabling the staff to manage individual and group calendars and diaries; that way, those who work with clients but do not engage with data entry on a daily basis still find it useful. My work as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow has revolved around continually engaging staff in this comprehensive clinical documentation, as well as supporting other organizations in the process, which ultimately serves to enable victims to achieve justice.
It remains paramount that organizations such as IMLU collect and document data on these human rights violations. During my Fellowship, I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico City for the IRCT’s 10th International Scientific Symposium in December 2016. I met colleagues from various organizations who are also working at IRCT member centers and participating in the Data in the Fight Against Impunity Project, who are just beginning to establish their own database system. Sharing my experience of how the IMLU system has made our work easier while ensuring that clients are involved in documentation, was exciting and meaningful. Little did I think that the work we were doing at IMLU would be of such great impact to colleagues in the sector. Being a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow has given me a boost of confidence and allowed me to learn a great deal not only in matters of clinical documentation but on leadership, networking, and quite a bit on humanitarian work. I am truly grateful to have been accorded this wonderful platform and opportunity to learn, grow, and to contribute to the common good.
(IMLU's poster presentation during the IRCT symposium)
(My tour around Mexico City)
All over the world, people living with mental illness can face issues such as inadequate healthcare, stigma against disability, and lack of education, which contribute to their disenfranchisement and vulnerability to inhumane treatment. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), people living with serious mental illness have a life expectancy that is 10-20 years shorter than average. They are not only ostracized by their communities, but are likely to be discriminated against for employment, education, civic engagement, and basic necessities such as food and shelter. Without access to employment and basic needs, certain populations of people with mental illness live in extreme cases of poverty and cannot access the appropriate resources for help.
At the forefront of the work to empower men, women and children living with mental illness are Clubhouse International and Fountain House. These organizations were jointly awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2014 for their dedication to providing opportunities and recovery services for men, women, and children living with mental illness. With more than 340 clubhouses in 320 countries, including the United States, Clubhouse International and Fountain House have helped over 100,000 people overcome the challenges of unemployment, abuse, and isolation.
Founded in 1948 in New York City, Fountain House was the first Clubhouse established. The organization now serves over 1,300 members through community mental health programs that are based on the "Clubhouse" working community model that it pioneered. This Clubhouse model is distinguished from other programs that serve people with mental illness by its core dependence on the voluntary participation of its members. Members play a critical role in the daily operations of the organization. The opportunity to live, work, and learn within a community and environment of mutual support empowers members to make progress towards achieving their employment and educational goals. As a template for Clubhouse organizations all over the world, Fountain House continues to be an example for organizations focusing on mental health in leadership development, education, advocacy, and research on the integration of people with mental illness into society.
Recently, Fountain House partnered with WHO to establish a series of guidelines and best practices to extend and improve the quality of life for people living with mental illness. Resources produced under this partnership include articles and reports, as well as upcoming events around the subject of excess mortality in persons living with serious mental illness. These guidelines will be implemented by governments and health care professionals around the world. Read more about this initiative here.
The growing number of Clubhouses around the world demonstrates that people with living mental illness have a meaningful place in society, and deserve the right to education, employment, and stability. Clubhouse International does not define their programming as treatment, but a partnership where people reclaim their futures in a supportive, recovery-based community. Clubhouse International believes in the possibility for a time where “there will one day be clubhouses in the cities and towns of every country in the world.” In order to obtain that vision, Clubhouse International developed a program model operating on standards proven to be effective in its implementation all over the world.
The Clubhouse model is grounded in a philosophy that has high expectations for its members with the understanding that community engagement is an important addition to psychiatric and medical treatment. Through local businesses, Clubhouse provides paid employment for its members, and offers educational and social programming that promotes members' sense of self-worth, confidence, and purpose.
Clubhouse International/Fountain House and the Hilton Prize Coalition
Recently, Clubhouse International participated in a Monitoring & Evaluation capacity building survey led by PATH under the Hilton Prize Coalition's Collaborative Models program, along with BRAC, Casa Alianza/Covenant House, HelpAge International, and Landesa. The purpose of the survey was to inform the Coalition’s monitoring and evaluation strategy, and to identify opportunities to leverage the member organizations’ capacity building initiatives.
In addition to Clubhouse International’s role in the Collaborative Models program, President Kenn Dudek of Fountain House was featured in the Coalition's Leading Thoughts series under the its Storytelling Program. This series features leaders of Hilton Prize Laureate organizations sharing lessons learned from their experiences in global development and humanitarian aid. During his interview, Dudek describes how people with mental illness are treated as an illness rather than a person with an illness, and shares how the Clubhouse model pioneered by Fountain House is one that stresses empowerment and advocating for the agency of people often left unheard due to the inequalities and stigmas towards mental illness in current health institutions. Watch the video here.
A new section has been launched on the Hilton Prize Coalition website to house resources on a variety of topics relevant to the continuum of humanitarian work. Through this online resource center, the Coalition seeks to share the collective expertise of its members, each of whom is a best-in-class organization that has been recognized for profound achievements and leadership in the global humanitarian community.
We will be updating this page regularly. Hilton Prize Coalition members and friends are invited to provide content; please email email@example.com. In this section, best practices developed through the Coalition’s Signature Programs as well as other curated content will be offered under these categories:
Information about designing and implementing effective partnerships
The Humanitarian Continuum
Expertise on cross-cutting issues facing the sector, with special emphasis on work being done to build community resiliency
Guidance for the next generation of humanitarian leaders
*Photo: Closing Session of IRCT Scientific Symposium and General Assembly in Mexico City; photo credit: Gerardo Arriaga
International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation
In 2003, the United Nations declared February 6th the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The day is designated to bring awareness to the dangers of FGM and “promote the sanctity of a woman's autonomy over her body and health.” Also referred to as female genital cutting (FGC), the World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 million women and girls alive today were subjected to FGM.
Internationally, FGM is recognized as a violation of human rights and constitutes as an extreme form of discrimination and inequality against women. The United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution in 2012 to ban the practice, while urging countries to take a firm stance in condemning procedures. The resolution calls on countries to take all necessary measures to raise awareness and allocate sufficient resources to protect women and girls from reproductive violence. Currently, UNFPA, jointly with UNICEF, leads the largest global program to accelerate the abandonment of FGM, focusing on 17 African countries as well as supporting regional and global initiatives under the theme of: "Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030."
Hilton Prize Laureates Amref Health Africa and Tostan are two best-in-class organizations contributing to the abandonment of FGM and the empowerment of women at the local level. Their holistic partnership approaches have resonated with governments, civil society, community leaders, and the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Below are some outcomes of their approach:
Amref Health Africa
Amref Health Africa (Amref) was awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1999 for their work on the most critical health issues in Africa. Through advocacy, research, and capacity building, the organization is committed to improving the health of Africans. As the largest health development organization in the continent, Amref constantly advocates for the rights of women, believing that sustainable development is only possible when women have equal opportunities.
Since 2007, Amref has implemented programs to eliminate the practice of FGM. These innovative programs work alongside communities in advancing health systems and education initiatives to accelerate the abandonment of the culturally accepted practice. Understanding that communities value cultural practices that commemorate the transition of girls into adulthood, Amref has worked with groups to create alternatives that prioritize health and well-being. One of their most notable programs, the Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP), is widely accepted by leaders as a substitute for FGM. “The Alternative Rites of Passage program allows girls to stay in school and contribute positively to the socio-economic growth of their communities and country,” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO, Amref Health Africa. In Kenya, more than 10,000 girls alone have graduated from the program thus avoiding the possibility of death, infection, and early childhood marriages.
Awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2007, Tostan was established in 1991 with a mission to empower rural communities through sustainable development. The organization’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) applies a holistic approach to dialogue and inclusivity that has provided a foundation for conversations in communities previously absent from those discussions.
Tostan's CEP program encourages its practitioners to understand human rights and develop programs leading groups away from the practice. Through CEP, participants learn about their shared responsibility to protecting a woman's right to health and freedom from violence. Therefore, when creating programs addressing the health needs of the community, they also examine preventative measures and the long-term consequences of FGC.
Although contributing to the eradication of FGC was not an immediate goal of Tostan, according to the organization, more than 7,200 communities in Africa have publicly declared to abandon both FGC and the related practice of child/forced marriage, with 91 declarations formalized in ceremonies across eight countries. Public declarations "are critical in the process for total abandonment and necessary for building critical mass, eventually leading FGC to becoming a thing of the past," states the organization. The governments of Senegal and The Gambia have respectively recognized CEP as their preferred method of engaging communities on harmful practices and have commended Tostan for their work in the region.
Both Amref and Tostan continue to enhance partnerships and programming that have had a tremendous impact on the abandonment of FGM. These organizations are prime examples of sustainable development conscious of human rights. We applaud them for their work and look forward to seeing much more from these laureates.
*image from the United Nations; #EndFGM social media campaign
Through its Collaborative Models Program, the Hilton Prize Coalition is committed to harnessing the power of its structure and the expertise of its members to strengthen organizations and build community resiliency. Catalytic funds allow the Collaborative Models Program to convene organizations around shared topics of interest, prioritizing collaboration as a means to achieve participants’ respective goals.
In 2016, the Coalition launched 5 pilot projects that currently involve 9 Coalition member organizations. Take a look at the projects below, and stay tuned to learn more about these initiatives as they evolve.
Trauma Informed Care Models
- Co-Lead Organizations: Casa Alianza/Covenant House and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
Covenant House, in partnership with IRCT, will develop a comprehensive set of presentation slides and printed materials in Spanish on issues related to trauma informed care. These materials will be used as training and reference resources that will assist mental health workers and specialists to better understand the effects of trauma, to create a conceptual map of how to approach traumatized youth, and to further integrate these leading edge principles into social services for youth in crisis. IRCT will lend its expertise in action-based research, knowledge-sharing processes, and survivor engagement to further substantiate the model.
In December 2016, representatives of Casa Alianza/Covenant House and IRCT convened for an open meeting around the Trauma Informed Care Models pilot project at the IRCT 10th International Scientific Symposium in Mexico City, Mexico. Participants discussed therapeutic approaches, shared experiences, and explored opportunities to support one another in their respective work.
(Closing Session of IRCT Symposium; photo credit: Gerardo Arriaga)
Train-the-Trainer Life Support Certification
- Lead Organization: Operation Smile; Contributing Organization: HelpAge International
Operation Smile will conduct an AHA (American Heart Association) Basic Life Support (BLS) training for Hilton Prize Coalition members and potential refugee population care providers based in Amman, Jordan, in March 2017. The objective of this project is to build regional healthcare capacity in the face of disaster situations. This train-the-trainer model is vital for the large number of aid organizations who serve refugee populations from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine with limited funds and little or no access to shared resources.
The curriculum for this training will be supplemented by components and/or modules contributed by HelpAge International, with a lens on elderly populations.
Monitoring & Evaluation Capacity Building
- Lead Organization: PATH; Participating Organizations: BRAC, Clubhouse International, Casa Alianza/Covenant House, HelpAge International, Landesa
PATH has been engaged to conduct an assessment in the form of a competency-based monitoring and evaluation self-assessment survey. The purpose of the survey is twofold: First, the survey will inform the Coalition’s M&E capacity building strategy, and second, it will help to identify opportunities to leverage the strengths of Coalition members in future capacity building work.
Collaborative Issue Brief
- Lead Organization: Landesa; Contributing Organization: BRAC
Landesa is leading the desk research for and writing of a collaborative issue brief on land and climate change, with a specific focus on slow onset displacement due to drought. The brief will highlight sub-Saharan Africa country case studies by BRAC and will present best practices. Through this brief, the Coalition seeks to bring attention to the critical issues of climate change, refugees, and land tenure rights.
Stay tuned for a social media campaign around the publication of this issue brief in March 2017.
- Sumnima Shrestha, Community Resource and Mobilization Manager at Heifer International Nepal, serves as the Coalition's Collaboration Coordinator in Nepal.
The position creates a mechanism for collaboration and establishes a foundation on which to build broader partnerships in years to come. The Coalition will replicate this model, beginning in the UK, with Collaboration Coordinators around the globe focused on identifying program synergies, cultivating a network and building the partnership approach within Coalition member organizations.
(Sumnima arranged a meeting for the representatives from 6 Coalition member organizations to meet in Kathmandu and discuss ongoing collaborative efforts with regard to upcoming events, disaster preparedness/response, and capacity building in the field)
Barbara Giovanelli recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with the IRCT – the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. The IRCT serves as an umbrella organization for over 140 member-NGOs that aid survivors of torture in more than 70 countries, advocating for the right to holistic rehabilitation and providing victims with clinical, legal and social assistance. Originally from Italy, Barbara holds a Master’s degree from the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratization.
In this blog post, Barbara reflects upon her research projects aimed at capturing stories of sexual torture victims, working alongside IRCT member organizations.
Stories of Survival
by Barbara Giovanelli
“You have to listen to a lot of horrible stories and accounts. Do you have a space for processing them?” asked a psychotherapist I had been interviewing as part of my research. He was asking me how I was coping with the heavy topic I had to deal with during my fellowship. Like many of my interviewees, he is a psychotherapist who works with survivors of torture. On that day, he had been telling me about his experience with patients who had been subjected to sexual violence as a means of torture. During what had become a very normal day for me at the IRCT (International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims) office in Copenhagen, his empathic question hit me so unexpectedly that I did not know what to say.
(In December 2016, the movement came together at the IRCT Scientific Symposium and General Assembly in Mexico City)
I had joined the IRCT as an intern in February 2016. For five months, I contributed to the work of various IRCT teams with my knowledge on gender-based violence. I devised fact-sheets for advocacy activities, contributed to policy documents, participated in the evaluation of grant reports and completed background research for fundraising. As I found out more and more about the intersection of gender, sexual violence, and torture, my supervisors and I came up with a new project for the rest of my time in Copenhagen: for the last two months of my internship, I conducted a study on the specific psychosocial and health consequences that sexual methods of torture can cause. After a summer break, I re-joined the IRCT team for four more months through a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship in order to conclude the research and turn its outcomes into a final report.
I interviewed over 20 experts working in rehabilitation centers on sexual methods of torture. Although I used a comprehensive questions guide to structure the interviews, I did my best to let the experts talk freely about their first-hand experiences. Most of the interviewees were psychologists; others were doctors, social workers or lawyers. Many of them work in difficult circumstances, facing hostile political environments or critical financial situations. Once, for instance, an interview had to be postponed several times because my interviewee was called to an emergency intervention in the conflict-torn region of North Kivu in eastern Congo.
When I analyzed all the rich information that I had gathered and looked for emerging themes and trends, I came to understand that there is one central and very sad aspect that accompanies almost all crimes of sexual torture: the fact that very often, victims do not report them.
While reporting a crime would be the first step, not only to claim justice, but also to allow the healing process to commence, feelings of shame and the fear of social stigmatization deter survivors from disclosing their experience of abuse. In most societies, everything that has to do with sexuality is a very private issue and is strictly defined by social norms and taboos. “So they hide their stories and suffer in silence,” one of the experts explained.
To start breaking the silence and deconstructing the stigma around sexual torture, the outcome of my fellowship is a report that shares the knowledge of distinguished experts and draws conclusions on a phenomenon that is widely under-represented in research. The report also includes a series of case stories to illustrate the devastating consequences of sexual torture on the health and social life of survivors, and identifies particular needs resulting from the devastation.
At the conclusion of my fellowship with the IRCT, I now know the answer I would give that psychotherapist. It is not easy for anyone who has to deal with such crimes, but the work I did at my desk in Copenhagen is nothing compared to all the efforts undertaken by you, the front-line aid workers who may be reading this, and most of all by you, the survivors. I deeply admire your strength and courage. It was truly an honor for me to learn from you and help you share your experiences.
(December 2016, two of the Women of Atenco who were subjected to sexual torture by military forces in 2006, speaking at the IRCT Scientific Symposium in Mexico City)