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Humanitas Visiting Professor in Women's Rights

Ambassador Melanne Verveer, the first US Ambassador for Global Women's Issues

Humanitas Visiting Professor in Women's Rights

4 - 11 March 2013
University of Cambridge

Melanne Verveer, Former US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and newly appointed Head of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, served as Humanitas Visiting Professor in Women’s Rights at the University of Cambridge 2012-2013. She delivered three lectures and took part in a concluding symposium, all based around the theme Gender Equality: A Moral and Foreign Policy Imperative.


Verveer’s first lecture, entitled Women’s Rights are Human Rights: The Beijing Platform for Action: an unfinished agenda, built on Hilary Clinton’s impacting declaration that the international community can no longer discuss Women’s Rights as a separate issue from Human Rights, delivered in Beijing at the 1995 UN 4th World Conference on Women. Although progress has been made in many aspects since that speech, Verveer nevertheless outlined the ways in which that progress has been uneven. With a focus on the areas of education, healthcare, and violence, Verveer showed how empowering the status of women across the world is essential for broader social progress to take place. Echoing Clinton’s words, Verveer’s lecture showed how issues that affect women affect everyone. You can view the video of this lecture here.


Verveer’s second lecture was on Women as Entrepreneurs and Employees: Critical Drivers of Economic Growth in Both Developed and Emerging Economies. In this lecture, Verveer outline her argument that empowering women across the world is not only moral, but strategic as well. She showed how women are essential for economic growth, both in rich and poor countries. Verveer made clear that women are the most important agricultural workers on a global level, and that giving them the same resources available to men would result in significantly higher economic yields; she also made clear the positive effects on business that increased female leadership and participation has shown to create.  


The third lecture in Verveer’s series, Perspectives on Women’s Political Participation and Role in Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding, argued that the inclusion and empowerment of women are essential for global security. Verveer drew on examples from across the world to show the impact of this message. She looked at the example of Angola, where women were excluded from the failed peace attempts, and compared this to the more successful cases of Liberia and North Ireland, where women were brought into the efforts to make and sustain peace. Women, Verveer asserted, are not better or worse than men at this, but their inclusion is essential for a balanced discussion and successful political decisions.


Verveer’s tenure was concluded by a symposium discussion on the topics brought up in her three lectures. The symposium was chaired by Professor Henrietta Moore and Professor Sara Ahmed, with Sarah Franklin, Susie Orbach, and Heidi Safia Mirza joining Melanne Verveer as panellists. The dialogue between the panellists and the audience ranged from the psychoanalytic underpinnings of the impediments to women’s advancement, the exhilarating ‘world-making’ goals of feminism, the importance of not just providing girls with education but using it to help them create their own voices, and the further steps that institutions like universities need to take to advance the place of women in society.   

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