Hear Her Voice: Activists on Capitol Hill

HHV poster

From February 23-25, Jewish World Watch and the Enough Project partnered to host “Hear Her Voice”, an advocacy delegation and learning conference, in Washington, D.C. Together, the organizations represent hundreds of thousands of constituents concerned about ongoing violence, genocide, and mass atrocities being perpetrated against civilians, and women in particular, in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, and South Sudan.

Nearly 100 activists from 19 states came to the nation’s capital with a clear message: women’s issues are central to achieving lasting peace, economic development, and security worldwide, particularly in countries where violence against women has been most prevalent. Participants included seasoned and first-time activists, undergraduate students, graduate students, and high school students from Harwich High School’s STAND chapter in Massachusetts. Over the course of three days, these activists received training sessions, briefings, and presentations from influential figures such as National Security Council Advisor Gayle Smith, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ed Royce (CA-39), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human rights, and International Organizations Karen Bass (CA-37), and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02).

A conversation with high-profile women on the topic of women in conflict opened the conference on Sunday evening. The Special Representative for the Aegis Trust for the Prevention of Crimes against Humanity, Dr. Mukesh Kapila, gave a keynote address touching on important women in his life and how they inspired him to stand up against genocide.

Monday’s learning and training day began with informational presentations conducted by regional experts and Enough Project and Jewish World Watch staff. Briefings were held on Sudan and South Sudan policy, DRC policy, and Peace vs. Justice in the region.

View all of the Hear Her Voice photos on Flickr

Gayle Smith and John Prendergast, co-founders of the Enough Project, gave an in-depth take on U.S. government responses to genocide and mass atrocities. Smith emphasized the enormous impact that advocates of all ages have on their Members of Congress. She encouraged participants to never underestimate this impact because creating “policy is all about weaving together strands of interest” within the government. Both highlighted the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), an interagency committee led by the White House which monitors threats, focuses U.S. Government efforts, and develops new tools and capabilities to improve the U.S. Government’s ability prevent and respond to mass atrocities.

Tuesday’s advocacy day began with a policy briefing from Congresswoman Karen Bass. Throughout the day, participants met with more than 50 congressional offices to urge them to takes actions, such as attending hearings and co-sponsoring legislation, toward ending the conflicts in DRC, South Sudan, and Sudan.

Participants heard promising responses from offices on both sides of the aisle, and are looking forward to promoting greater action against genocide and mass atrocities. Delegates took a break in the afternoon to attend a Capitol Hill Reception and hear from guest speakers such as Senior Advisor for Global Strategy at the International Medical Corps and former U.S. Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo Ambassador William Garvelink, Congressman Ed Royce, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Hear Her Voice concluded with a debriefing from Congressman Jim McGovern, a long-time leading voice on U.S.-Sudan policy, who applauded the initiative of all the participants to converge on Capitol Hill to work to end mass atrocities, and emphasized the impact constituents have on influencing their Members of Congress to address the complex challenges existing in the DRC, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Special thanks to all of our other speakers not listed above, including:
Niemat Ahmadi, Founder and Director of the Darfur Women Action Group
Jacques Bahati, African Faith and Justice Network Policy Analyst
Lee Ann De Reus, Co-founder of Panzi Foundation USA
Holly Dranginis, Enough Project Policy Associate
Nita Evele, Director of Congo Global Action
Katie Flannery, International Justice Project Program Director
Hannah Garry, Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at the USC Gould School of Law
Naama Haviv, Jewish World Watch Assistant Director
Amani Floyd, USC Gould School of Law student
Michael Jeser, Jewish World Watch Executive Director
John Korevec, USC Gould School of Law student
Akshaya Kumar, Enough Project Sudan and South Sudan Policy Analyst
Rachel Levitan, HIAS Senior Counsel for Refugees and Migration
Sasha Lezhnev, Enough Project Senior Policy Analyst
Jimmy Mulla, Voices for Sudan President
Janice Kamenir-Reznik, Jewish World Watch Co-Founder and President
Witney Schneidman, Senior International Advisor for Africa at Covington and Burlington LLP
Lindsay Schubiner, AJWS Policy Associate for Sexual Health and Rights

Additional thanks to the Hear Her Voice Co-Chairs Natalie Blake, Susan Brooks, and Vaughan Meyer.

Emily Brandon and Rachel Finn contributed to this post.