Fall 2012 SEERS Fellows Bios
Hometown: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Organizational overview: I lead the organization Musawah, which advances human rights for women in Muslim contexts, in both their public and private lives. Its objectives are as follows:
• To build and share knowledge that supports equality and justice in the Muslim family using a holistic approach that combines Muslim jurisprudence, international human rights standards, national laws and constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination, and the lived realities of women and men.
• To build a critical mass of organisations, groups, and individuals that support, use, and promote the Musawah Framework for Action and are empowered to engage in the public discourse on Islam and women’s rights.
• To support the work of human rights mechanisms, as well as groups and individuals working with these processes at the international, regional, and national levels, to advance equality and justice in the Muslim family.
Why do you do that work that you do?I was brought up with the belief that God is just and Islam is a just religion. I am therefore outraged that my religion is used to justify discrimination against women. Engaging with the text and empowering Muslim women with knowledge, courage and will to publicly take on patriarchal authorities, state and non-state actors and their use of religion to resist the demands for change is nothing but an energizing and rewarding life mission.
What you hope to achieve at Stanford? I look forward to engaging with the students and academics on the exciting work that I have been doing and hope to learn new concepts and tools to advance my work. I want to catch up with my readings on Islam, democracy and nation-building. I plan to develop a resource mobilization strategy and implementation plan for Musawah.
Favorite quote: “You must be the change you want to see in the world." -Gandhi
Emily Elizabeth Arnold-Fernández
Hometown: Lafayette, California
Organizational affiliation: Asylum Access
Organizational overview: The average time in a refugee camp is 17 years. Asylum Access was founded to change this.
Most refugees flee across a border in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. They may reach safety, but they're denied rights to work, move, go to school and rebuild their lives. I founded Asylum Access to end this routine violation of refugees' international human rights, everywhere in the world.
Asylum Access combines legal aid, community legal empowerment, policy advocacy and strategic litigation to transform the human rights landscape for refugees in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Under my leadership, Asylum Access provides legal assistance to more than 5,000 refugees annually, and our policy advocacy has directly impacted around 1 million people worldwide.
Why do you do that work that you do? As a law student, I helped refugees from across Africa get legal status in Egypt, so they wouldn't be arrested and deported to a country that would kill them.
Then I met Jeno. Although he had legal status and safety, he was barred from working. So he held three volunteer jobs to “build his resume,” hoping someday he'd be allowed to support himself.
I saw aid agencies and governments colluding to keep refugees like Jeno dependent on aid – in violation of their rights – and decided we needed to change this.
What you hope to achieve at Stanford? Among other projects, I hope to work with the Stanford community to develop ongoing academic and field research at the intersection of refugee human rights, international development, and rule of law.
As the quintessential outsiders, refugees often serve as a litmus test for the strength of human rights protections, equity among communities affected by international development projects and equal protection of the law for marginalized populations. Stanford, and particularly CDDRL, is uniquely placed to identify, explore and critique innovative solutions for refugees and their host communities.
Favorite quote: June Jordan's Poem for South African Women ends with the line: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” To me, this says we can't wait for anyone else to fix what's broken in our world. When I feel tired or powerless, I think of this quote. We are enough – smart enough, thorough enough, dedicated enough – to transform the world. We don't need to wait for anyone else. We just need to begin.
Mazibuko Kanyiso Jara
Hometown: Keiskammahoek (Amathole mountains), Eastern Cape province, South Africa
Organizational affiliations: Ntinga Ntaba ka Ndoda (Keiskammahoek), Democratic Left Front, University of Cape Town’s Law, Race and Gender Research Unit (UCT LRG), and Amandla magazine
Organizational overview and your role: The mission of the Ntinga Ntaba ka Ndoda organisation is to build collective community solidarity, power and agency in order to promote sustainable rural development in Keiskammahoek. As the executive director, I am responsible for the strategic direction, program implementation and fundraising work.
The Democratic Left Front is a broad political front that brings together anti-corporate social justice movements in South Africa. As a spokesperson, I ensure that the organization is an active voice in the South African body politic.
The UCT LRG is a research unit that focuses on the intersection between customary law and the constitution particularly as it affects the rights and interests of rural women in South Africa. This connects with my work at Ntinga Ntaba ka Ndoda. As a research associate, I have focused on the impact of traditional governance laws on the interests and positions of rural women.
Why do you do that work that you do?
I am committed to social justice that can redistribute wealth and ensure that the earth’s finite resources are socially owned, equitably shared, democratically controlled and sustainably managed. I actively mobilize communities, activists and organizations towards such social justice. Such a vision cannot avoid challenging corporate and state actors who perpetuate economic, social and political systems that produce inordinate power relations, inequality, misery, squalor and poverty.
What you hope to achieve at Stanford?
I hope to learn from fellow SEERS and academics at Stanford. I hope to be exposed to new thoughts and ideas on how to achieve social justice. I also hope to share my experiences and perspectives with others. This is in line with my commitment to building global solidarity for social justice. I also hope to use my time here to relax and regenerate my energy and spirit. I have seen online that Stanford is beautiful and in close range of hiking trails.
Favorite quote or fun fact about yourself: I am an easy-going person who is easy to engage with. I love reading and walking. I also love dogs. I am a keen and active supporter of football.