The World We Seek: Reigniting the Dialogue on Human Security

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

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Photo credit WLP/Stan Barouh Photography

Sept 14 2015 The World We Seek SAIS_Stan Barouh Photography 2

On September 14, 2015 Mahnaz Afkhami gave opening remarks at the Women Learning Partnership‘s conference The World We Seek: Reigniting the Dialogue on Human Security at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC to mark the 20th anniversary of the 4th UN World Conference on Women, held in 1995 in Beijing.  The conference convened renowned experts, practitioners, and young leaders from around the world to participate on panel discussions that will focus on the linkages between human, social, economic, and environmental rights, and development and peace; and how to mobilize, reimagine, and reinvigorate the global movement to promote universal rights, given the current challenges and opportunities. The event featured WLP’s new documentary Human Rights: The Unfinished Journey as a prologue to a holistic debate on the reasons and remedies for the present condition of universal human rights.

View photos from the event here. Watch the full archived event here.


9:30 AM

Opening Remarks

  • Vali NasrDean, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
  • Mahnaz Afkhami – President and Founder of the Women’s Learning Partnership and Former Minister of Women’s Affairs, Iran

10:00 AM


  • Zainab Bangura (Sierra Leone)Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict

10:15 AM

Panel #1

Women’s Vision of a New Compact of Rights

Pat Mitchell (USA) (Facilitator) – Former President and Chief Executive Officer of The Paley Center for Media in New York City and the former President and CEO of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

  • Hafsat Abiola-Costello (Nigeria) – Special Advisor, Millenium Development Goals at Ogun State Government, and Founder, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND)
  • Karima Bennoune (Algeria) – Professor of Law and Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall Research Scholar at the University of California at Davis School of Law
  • Gay McDougall (USA) – Former UN Special Rapporteur on Minorities and Member, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • Jacqueline Pitanguy (Brazil) – Founder and Executive Director of Cidadania, Estudo, Pesquisa, Informação e Ação (Cepia) in Brazil and former President of the National Council for Women’s Rights of Brazil

 11:45 AM

Film Screening: Human Rights: The Unfinished Journey

Panel #2: Film Discussion

Lina Abou-Habib (Lebanon) (Facilitator) –  CoExecutive Director, Women’s Learning Partnership

  • Ann Mayer (USA) – Former Professor of International Human Rights Law, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Barbara Phillips (USA) – Social justice activist, law professor, and civil rights lawyer
  • Aruna Rao (India/USA) – Co-founder, Gender At Work
  • Andrea Romani (Brazil) – Program Officer, Cidadania, Estudo, Pesquisa, Informação e Ação (Cepia)

1:00 PM


1:45 PM

Panel #3

Lifelines: The Poetry of Human Rights

Abena Busia (Ghana/USA) (Facilitator) – Chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University

2:45 PM

Panel #4

Youth Initiatives: The World We Seek

Kent Davis-Packard (USA) (Facilitator) – Co-Executive Director, Women’s Learning Partnership

  • Erica Brooks (USA) – Vice President of Growth and Development, White Pony Express
  • Nzira Deus (Mozambique) – Executive Director, Fórum Mulher
  • GökçenDurutaş (Turkey) – Program Coordinator, Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work
  • Rabeea Hadi (Pakistan) – Director of Advocacy and Eliminating Violence Against Women, Aurat Foundation

4:00 PM

Closing remarks

  • Yakin Ertürk (Turkey) – Former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and former Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)

Musical Performance

  • Consortium of the Arts Ensemble Chorus – Directed by Hilary Hogan



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About Mahnaz Afkhami

A lifetime advocate for the rights of women, Mahnaz Afkhami works with activists across the world, especially in Muslim majority societies, to help women become leaders. She is Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies...more

Quotables – Human Rights

"We must pose the question: why is it that the denial of the most rudimentary rights to civil treatment for women is always based on some fundamental point of culture? Is this culture real, or is it a fetish that is used to maintain some economic, social, or simply psychological privilege?" - A Vision of Gender in Culture

"Women's status in society has become the standard by which humanity's progress toward civility and peace can be measured." - Architects for Peace

"The crass infringement of women's rights we see in the Muslim world has more to do with power, patriarchy, and misuse of religion as political weapon than with religion properly understood as individual faith." - Gender Apartheid, Cultural Relativism, and Women's Human Rights

"Rights and empowerment are interconnected: unless a substantial number of women in a community come to believe that they have rights and demand to exercise them, right remains an abstraction." - Faith and Freedom

Quotables – Movement Building

"The conditions women have in common outrank and outvalue those that set them apart." - Faith and Freedom

“International movement building in the 21st century and involvement of youth in advocacy will be made possible largely through technology" - Engendering IT Tools