MHR students summer projects around the world highlighted

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From Minneapolis to Nairobi, our students are participating in human rights work across the globe. This summer, the Human Rights Program is providing funding to 16 students working in human rights placements where they are gaining hands-on experience in areas of individual interest, such as women’s rights, impunity around enforced disappearances, and refugee issues. The recipients of the support, which include Master of Human Rights students, graduate and professional students pursuing the interdisciplinary graduate minor in human rights, law students, and undergraduate students, are hard at work addressing many of the most prevalent human rights issues today.

Plenty of human rights action is happening right here in the Twin Cities. Undergraduate Emily Graper and Master of Human Rights candidate Iván López-Justiniano are working with David Crow, a visiting researcher from the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) in Mexico City. Crow’s team is working on a database of enforced disappearances in Mexico, coding news articles from six Mexican states with high levels of human rights violations. The work is part of an ongoing project the Program is contributing to, collaborating with researchers in Mexico and at the University of Oxford to document human rights violations.

Master of Human Rights student Shelby Ankrom is spending her summer working with the New Tactics in Human Rights initiative of the Center for Victims of Torture, researching innovative human rights advocacy tactics and disseminating them through online content and conversations. Master of Social Work student Maryam Mesgari-Houshyar is working with Children of Incarcerated Caregivers to research and advocate for policies and programs that improve the lives of children whose caregivers are incarcerated or are facing incarceration. Undergraduate Ryan Atkinson is working with the International Justice Program at the Advocates for Human Rights, where he is conducting research, developing educational and promotional materials, and helping plan trainings.

U of M law students Meghan Knapp, Emily Thornton, and Sara Halimah are assisting Professor Barbara Frey in updating the Istanbul Protocol, the United Nations’ manual on effective investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Part of a larger working group, the students are researching legal developments related to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, as well as changes in the definition of torture in practice.

Out east, four graduate students are gaining experience in human rights work in premier organizations based in Washington, DC. At the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), Sachal Jacob assists in advocacy and research, primarily in South Asia. Hayley Drozdowski is supporting the Sub Saharan Africa team of Refugees International while Julia Wilber, also based at Refugees International, is supporting the organization’s president and program team providing research memos on refugee crises around the world. Master of Human Rights student Ana Vergara is serving as a Refugee Campaigner intern at Amnesty International USA, providing substantive research, policy analysis, and legislative tracking on issues related to refugees and asylum seekers. In New York, undergraduate Anishaa Kamesh is working with the Prevention Education Program at ECPAT-USA, where she is conducting a desk review of existing curricula on child trafficking, collecting evaluation information, and organizing and maintaining project materials.

Meanwhile in Colombia, J. Wren Supak researches the role of art in post-conflict justice in Colombia as a guest student at the National University of Bogota. The visual artist and Master of Human Rights candidate plans on applying the research to her presentation at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in September.

The Human Rights Program has also sent two representatives to Nairobi, Kenya. Fadumo Osman, a public policy student pursuing an interdisciplinary graduate minor in human rights, is working with UN-Habitat’s Housing and Slums Upgrading Branch (HSUB) as a Housing and Human Rights intern. Masters of Human Rights student Maryam Ahmed is working at the city’s Somali Embassy, where she will track the Somali Embassy’s response to human rights violations in the refugee camps, as well as to violations of refugees living in urban areas.

The Human Rights Program is thrilled to support this talented and driven group of individuals! Stay tuned to hear more about their experiences.
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