Spring 2013 SEERS Fellows Bios
Gemma "Gems" Bulos
Hometown: San Diego, California
Organizational affiliation: Global Women’s Water Initiative(GWWI) "A Program of Women’s Earth Alliance in Partnership with Crabgrass"
Organizational overview: The Global Women's Water Initiative (GWWI) designs trainings for grassroots women and groups to implement water-related solutions so they can improve their communities' health and have access to opportunities for self-reliance. As the main water providers and caretakers for their families, women and girls are the most burdened by the lack of access to water and sanitation. GWWI is building a cadre of women trainers transforming them from water bearers to water providers. GWWI graduates are versed in a holistic set of water, sanitation, and hygiene strategies empowering them to build locally appropriate technologies and launch social enterprises. I serve as the director of GWWI.
Why do you do what you do? Water is the master equalizer. The smallest plant and the richest man need it to survive. This is an area where we can all agree and start a conversation. And in my mind, a profound launching point for us to collaborate. When people have access to water and sanitation, it opens up opportunities for them to thrive! Women are the most burdened and have the most at stake since they are the primary caretakers of their families. Health and opportunity begin with safe water.
What do you hope to achieve at Stanford? I’m really excited to work with the students and contribute to the class on social entrepreneurship. I like to call myself an "accidental" social entrepreneur because I had no background in international development or water prior to this. I learned in the field by listening generously and trusting the wisdom of the community. Who better to learn from than the people who have the least resources because they tend to be the most resourceful. This experience is what I believe I can share with students who are wanting to transition into a career in international development. I’ll also be taking classes, conducting research, and hopefully building relationships with departments for potential collaborations.
Favorite quote: “The work an unknown good (wo)man has done is like a vein of water, flowing hidden underground secretly making the ground green.” - Thomas Carlyle
Hometown: Freetown, Sierra Leone
Organizational affiliation: Timap for Justice (Timap is a Krio word meaning “stand up”)
Organizational overview: Timap for Justice is a pioneering effort to provide basic legal services and improve access to justice in Sierra Leone. It uses a method that responds to Sierra Leone’s socio-legal context, which includes a dualist legal structure (under which the customary system has primary relevance for the majority of people), and a shortage of lawyers. Community-based paralegals seek to find solutions for a wide range of justice problems through mediation, advocacy, education, and organizing. They are backstopped by lawyers who employ litigation in severe and intractable cases.
I co-founded and continue to manage this innovative program, providing legal representation to potentially precedent-setting cases.
Why do you do what you do? Growing up, I witnessed firsthand victims of injustice, poverty, and corruption embracing the civil war to settle scores by maiming, killing, and burning. I was determined to try to do something about the young mother seeking maintenance; the unemployed youths languishing in police cells unable to bribe their way out; and the poor community overrun by a multinational mining company. By using the law, we are able to try and get incrementally just outcomes one day at a time.
What do you hope to achieve at Stanford? I am eager to step back from my intense commitment, and use this opportunity to engage the Stanford community in some practical and intellectual questions I have been grappling with including: how best can justice be advanced in the context of a failed, post-war state? What role can litigation and law play in democratization and empowerment? What reforms (processes of reform), are necessary to engage the contradictions and inequities of a dualist legal structure?
Favorite quote: “Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit” - Napoleon Hill
Hometown: Blantyre, Malawi
Organizational affiliation: Eye of the Child
Organizational overview: Eye of the Child was established to address the high degree of child abuse, exploitation, and violence against children in Malawi as a result of dire poverty and HIV/AIDs. The vision of Eye of the Child is to contribute towards the creation of “nations free of abuse, exploitation, and violence against children,” through a combination of advocacy, training, child protection, and social welfare services. As the director, my work involves litigation, supervision of the administrative and program team, policy advocacy and lobbying, child rights monitoring, and public relations.
Why do you do what you do? Having experienced abuse as a child growing up in a poor country, it pains me to see the suffering of so many children due to poverty. l was shocked with the results of the research that l conducted at school on the state of juvenile justice in Malawi where children as young as eight years are remanded in adult penitentiaries over crimes of need. I was then committed to my work as an advocate for child justice and protection.
What do you hope to achieve at Stanford? The fellowship will offer me the opportunity to reflect on my organization's strategic plan and conduct research on different approaches to achieve both personal and organization objectives and aspirations. More time will be spent on analyzing practices, learning from other experiences, and developing goals and strategies to increase my organization's productivity. The process of re-evaluation and planning will focus on streamlining the organization, creating new links, and finding ways of making partners more receptive to supporting the organization’s initiatives.
Favorite quote: “Poverty should never be used as a reason to subject children to slavery and abuse.” (My own!)