As a part of International Education Week, the McGillycuddy-Logue Fellows of the Class of 2020 invited three women from Boston College to speak about their work in the field of international social justice. The panel, titled “Who Runs the World?: Perspectives from the Women of Boston College,” featured Brinton Lykes, co-director of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice; Elista Molles, adjunct professor of international studies and political science; and Maheen Haider, a Ph.D. student in the department of sociology.
The panel opened with a question about common misconceptions that people often have about international social justice. Answering first, Lykes discussed her time as a student in Paris in 1968—this was a period of civil unrest, in which a multitude of strikes and demonstrations by students and workers over educational and industrial grievances practically brought the nation to an economic standstill. Lykes labeled this as one of the most “transformative experiences” in her life.
“I think one of the things that I’ve learned most is that in order to work transnationally and in order to work internationally, one has to learn how to listen,” she said. “I think we’re not taught how to listen, and I think that it’s particularly challenging to learn how to listen when you’re becoming something.”
Molles’ answer to the question consisted of her opinion on the United States and the role it plays on the international stage. She mentioned a number of major social issues that the United States is still beleaguered by, including sexism and Islamophobia.
“[Americans] tend to be somewhat self-righteous and believe that social justice issues are far away … but they’re happening everywhere,” Molles said.
In addition to this, she addressed the refugee crisis that is occurring both domestically and internationally. Molles criticized “the common misconception” that immigrants have to be a burden to the nations they come to. She disagreed with the view, positing the idea of focusing on the individual qualities, skills, and talents that these people have. Instead of creating tension between refugees and locals, Molles said she believes that governments should attempt to support said migrants to the best of their abilities.
When asked about the advice that these panelists would give to women who aspire to start their careers in a similar field, Haider urged women in the audience to be committed to their current path.
“Keep doing what you’re doing,” she said. “You will face failures, but as a woman, you need to be strong.You are going to fail, but it’s human.”
Haider’s was raised within a plethora of different multicultural backgrounds, as her family moved from its home country of Pakistan to places like the United Kingdom.
Molles went on to acknowledge the added pressure that women are often subjected to, including the pressure to engage in academics and think about families. To provide guidance on this matter, Molles talked about her own experiences as she balanced professional obligations with wanting to become—and eventually becoming—a mother. She advised women to stick to what [they] want to do, and remember that their voices matter.
Women who seek to work in the field of international justice must follow other people’s journeys, Lykes said. She explained that people around the world experience marginalization differently, and that means that people involved in international justice cultivate their virtues and recognize the limits of what they can do.
Haider ended the panel by providing some advice for men to help bolster the role of women on the international stage. As a Ph.D. student at BC, she credited the support of her father and her brothers for much of the success she’s had. Haider mentioned that as a child and a young woman, she received “a whole lot of trust” from the male figures in her life, which made it possible for her to accomplish great things
“You can make such a strong difference in the lives of women today,” Haider said.
Featured Image by Matthew Trenton / For the Heights