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SAIS Women Lead Practicum Presentations 2020–2021

May 12, 2021

Dr. Dafna Rand, Former Vice President for Research and Policy at Mercy Corps
Nina Gardner, Adjunct Lecturer, Johns Hopkins SAIS; Director, Strategy International
Student Presenters:
Team for the International Republican Institute: Teena Abraham, Corinne Bennett, Maimuna Gassama, and Manisha Vepa
Team for BRAC: Ally Brodsky, Bochen Han, Tori Hill, and Christina Lee
Team for Women In International Security: Amanda Hua, Kim Jasmin, Xier Li, Shiselle Povedano, and Isadora Schaller
The event was moderated by Dr. Chiedo Nwankwor, Director, SAIS Women Lead; Lecturer, African Studies Program, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Johns Hopkins SAIS students participating in the year-long SAIS Women Lead Practicum project culminated in a final presentation of their findings on May 12, 2021 to a diverse audience from across the globe. In alignment with their mission to increase and amplify women’s leadership around the world and to close the gender gap, SAIS Women Lead celebrated the important work achieved by these women leaders for and in partnership with their clients. The success of this year’s practicum program bears highlighting, especially since the students conducted their research during the ongoing pandemic.
In her keynote address during the event, Rand drew the audience’s attention to the importance of doing work that affects policy. She also focused on how the graduating students could use various levels of theory of change to impact policy in their different fields of endeavor. She urged the students to become effective change agents through deriving thoughtful, adaptive theories of change.
Leading off the presentations, Abraham, Bennett, Gassama, and Vepa discussed their research for the International Republican Institute (IRI). This project looked at how to increase women’s political competitiveness in the context of post-conflict Sri Lanka and applied their research to make recommendations worldwide. The team emphasized the importance of empowering girls at a young age and encouraging the women candidates’ families to support their endeavors. Overall, they proposed the following actions to improve women’s political competitiveness: develop monitoring systems to assess gender inclusivity in political parties, facilitate partnerships between party leaders and women candidates, introduce gender-inclusive journalism training to promote advocacy, and share successes of women politicians to raise awareness.
Next, Brodsky, Han, Hill, and Lee presented on how BRAC’s new iteration of its Empowerment & Livelihoods for Adolescents (ELA) program in Tanzania strengthens the foundation for women’s employment. BRAC originally implemented ELA in Asia, and now there are ELA programs throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The team’s report concluded that the soft skills gained from the ELA program in Tanzania, particularly through self-awareness, provided building blocks for the young women’s economic empowerment. The team suggested short- to long-term changes to further strengthen the ELA program. These recommendations included involving women interviewers in the process, interviewing participants who exit the program early, potentially moving the program to and partnering with schools, building ties with local businesswomen, and conducting regular impact assessments.
Hua, Jasmin, Li, Povedano, and Schaller rounded out the presentations with their project for Women In International Security (WIIS). This assessment highlighted the additional challenges faced by women farmworkers. Women farmworkers often suffer from hazardous work conditions, unsafe housing and transportation, inadequate healthcare, discrimination, lack of sufficient childcare, and food insecurity. The team thus advocated for the federal government to increase the number of H-2A visas available to women to reduce their dependence; provide funding to local grassroots organizing that fulfill basic needs; expand protective labor laws to include H-2A farmworkers; and support resources for adding issues like gender-based violence, pesticide use, and sexual harassment to OSHA’s purview.
To close out the event, Gardner congratulated the women for their immense progress throughout the year, especially given the challenges of conducting research virtually. She encouraged the students to take their findings and act as ambassadors for these issues in their professional and personal lives. Nwankwor wrapped up the event by expressing profound gratitude to the clients—BRAC, IRI, and WIIS—and her pride at watching the students grow throughout the academic year.
All the teams will publish their formal reports at on the school’s Student Publications page.
Action Items from the Event:
(a)   Improve women’s participation in politics through policies like evaluating gender parity in parties, instituting gender-inclusive training for journalists, and showcasing the successes of women politicians
(b)  Increase positive employment outcomes for young women by developing their soft skills, especially their self-awareness
(c)   Implement protections for and provide resources for women farmworkers to increase their independence, reduce gender-based violence, ensure food security, and mitigate job hazards
(d)  Apply the findings from these practicum projects to uplift the voices of women everywhere
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Are you a SAIS student interested in joining the Practicum for the upcoming academic year? Submit an application for the 2021-2022 SAIS Women Lead Practicum