May 16, 2017

A group of students in the Gender, Globalization and Human Rights class taught by Yasmine Ergas in spring 2017 took part in last month’s Second International Symposium on Gender, Law and Constitutions, held April 12 and 13 in Washington, D.C.

The conference was organized by UN Women and the United States Institute of Peace; one SIPA student, Ashleigh Montgomery MIA ’17, had worked on the conference as a Women, Peace, and Security intern for UN Women last summer.

The theme of the conference was “Equitable Constitutions,” and programming focused on constitutions and gender equality policy. A series of panels featuring speakers from UN Women and other NGOs, Many students presentated on constitutions and other aspects of gender policy—including the SIPA delegation, which addressed the gender politics of populist and nationalist movements and governments.

Two things that especially distinguished the event, Ergas said, were the geographic range of participants—who represented universities in the United States, Europe, Middle East, and Africa—and the deep engagement of audience members in the students’ research. Both students and participating faculty gave extensive feedback to student presenters.

But the conference was noteworthy for another reason as well, Ergas said.

“I learned a lot, but I also saw an international network start to take shape,” she said. “A cohort of students, scholars, and practitioners came together to work on gender and equality from the perspectives of law and public policy, and I think their combined contributions are going to expand, and have a determining impact for years to come.”

In addition to Columbia, universities represented at the symposium included Adam Mikckiewicz University (Poland); Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel); Universidad de Alcala (Spain); Universita Bocconi (Italy), Universita’ degli Studi di Milano (Italy); University of Birmingham (UK); University of Chicago; University of Malawi; University of Pennsylvania; and University of Westminster (UK).

Pictured: Yasmine Ergas (center) is surrounded by student participants