Madeline England

Madeline England (Home for Human Rights – HHR): Madeline received her BA in economics from Mount Holyoke College in 2002. She then worked as a legal assistant for a London law firm and as an outreach coordinator for the Women’s Anti-Violence Education program in Philadelphia. From 2004 to 2006, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mauritania, West Africa, where she helped women entrepreneurs to coordinate marketing campaigns and business plans. At the time of her fellowship, Madeline was pursuing a Masters in International Affairs with a concentration in Human Rights at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. After her fellowship, Madeline wrote: "The fellowship was an infinitely valuable experience. I learned more about human rights advocacy and research, exactly as I was hoping, and I also gained experience working in a conflict zone. It helped me to develop the skills and understanding to work with community-based human rights organizations."

On my way to the jet plane

24 May

Yesterday I read an interview with Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, in which he said that he didn’t know what to expect when he returned to Afghanistan after 27 years in the United States.* Although I am not Sri Lankan and have never been there, I now have some understanding of that sentiment. I have read so much about the Sri Lankan conflict, and in a few days I will see if the violence is as bad as described in recent news reports or worse.

In times of conflict, the international media tends to focus the major parties involved, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) and the Sri Lankan government and military, in this case. Unfortunately the people most affected by the violence are the innocent civilians caught in the middle. I have tried not to form opinions from what I read in the media and expect to do that from my own experiences and observations. But six frustrating weeks of visa applications have led me to two initial opinions: (a) one should always deal with consular affairs through the Washington, DC Embassy rather than a regional Consulate and (b) the Sri Lankan government has something to hide.

Several people have asked if I am scared since the conflict has escalated in recent months. I have never thought that fear should stop me from doing anything that I really want to do. Furthermore, the recent escalation makes the need for the world to see the conflict’s impact on the Sri Lankan people that much more important. This is a critical time to be there and helping local advocates raise awareness domestically and internationally. I ask each of you to help me by forwarding the link to this blog to friends and contacts. It is amazing what we will be able to accomplish in three months if we work together.

I am very grateful to the Advocacy Project (AP) for this opportunity to spend the summer working with its partner organization Home for Human Rights (HHR) in Colombo. I agree with the AP’s mission 100%, and I think that local advocates are effective because they understand the historical and cultural context of human rights better than anyone. The people of HHR live with the conflict every day and see its effects on every victim that comes to their office. By expanding HHR’s network in Colombo and raising awareness in the United States, I hope to supplement their efforts to advocate human rights for victims of torture particularly with the United Nations Human Rights Council.

I am leaving tonight from New York City. The next time you hear from me will be from Colombo.

Posted By Madeline England

Posted May 24th, 2007

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