Harvard GlobalWE is a shared interest group of the Harvard Alumni Association. We are dedicated to the empowerment of women through education, dialogue and connection among individuals working for women's rights and freedoms worldwide.
Our Members.Harvard GlobalWE members span the globe, hailing from the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, England, Canada, the USA, and beyond. The diversity of our backgrounds, genders, religions, politics, perspectives and cultures fuels our conversations and understandings. Our commonality is our unwavering dedication to global women's empowerment: a shared commitment that has drawn us together, and continues to attract Harvard alumni from around the world as well as Harvard students, staff, and affiliates.
Harvard GlobalWE does not advocate a specific ideology or agenda; rather, we highlight and raise awareness about issues concerning women's empowerment worldwide, including but not limited to: education, political rights, freedom from violence, economic empowerment, and women's healthcare. Our efforts include worldwide online screenings and discussions of documentaries and films, in-person roundtable discussions with women leaders, and the development of a network of organizations through which our membership can become more actively involved in specific global women's empowerment initiatives.
A Special Thanks to GlobalWE Collaborators,
Harvard Club of France
Harvard Club of India
Harvard Club of Mexico
Harvard Club of Pakistan - Karachi
Harvard University Association of Alumni in Singapore
Harvard Club of Turkey
Harvard Club of UAE
And GlobalWE Program Partners.
Harvard Club of Chicago
Harvard Alumni for Fashion, Luxury, and Retail
GlobalWE Background Statement on Political Neutrality.
Harvard Alumni for Global Women’s Empowerment (“GlobalWE”) is a Shared Interest Group (“SIG”) of the Harvard Alumni Association (“HAA”). When GlobalWE’s founders first approached the HAA in 2012 about establishing a SIG, we were informed that the HAA would not approve a new SIG that intended to engage in or fund political or ideological advocacy. In addition, if we intended to seek 501(c)(3) status, that status would be at risk if we engaged in political advocacy. It was recommended that we revise our mission statement to focus on education and networking related to women’s empowerment. We were initially disappointed. But as we have evolved since our 2013 launch, we have seen the wisdom of the HAA’s requirement.
SIGs are intended to create community around a shared mission. It is axiomatic that political perspectives can be divisive. In line with the advice we received, GlobalWE’s mission states, among other things: “We are dedicated to the empowerment of women through education, dialogue and connection among individuals working for women's rights and freedoms worldwide. Harvard GlobalWE does not advocate a specific ideology or agenda; rather, we highlight and raise awareness about issues concerning women's empowerment worldwide…” Our primary goal is akin to what Marty Baron identified in his May 2020 Harvard Commencement address, to “reveal the world as it is -- because someone might then make things better.” We strive to carry out our mission in a way that is politically neutral without advocacy. We are dedicated to education, with a core focus on nurturing a community of Harvard alumni who are devoted to empowering women around the world. GlobalWE welcomes and embraces all people who choose to join us, regardless of political or ideological perspectives.
We assume as a foundational principle that women, like all people, have inalienable human rights, which are universal and not subject to politics or ideological argument. We recognize, as stated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”), that “the inherent dignity and … the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Civil rights advocate Eleanor Roosevelt passionately supported the UDHR, which was accepted unanimously by all nations of the 1948 UN General Assembly (1). We believe the basic rights and freedoms included in the UDHR apply to all humans, including women, and these are prior to and not subject to politics or ideology.
GlobalWE aspires to reach as many people as possible, as we gather members who share our mission of women’s empowerment. Our political neutrality facilitates this engagement by allowing those with diverse ideological views to join our efforts, without fear that they will be required to endorse political positions with which they disagree. Our apolitical nature allows those who work in government or other sensitive positions to embrace our efforts without transgressing workplace or other restrictions on political affiliation. Our political neutrality provides opportunities for our members to participate in a mission to which they feel profoundly connected but which would be disallowed by their employers if it were politically aligned.
As we are a Global SIG, many of our members live in countries where expressing or aligning with political views critical of their governments could put them in grave danger. Even with our transparent standpoint on political neutrality, there is danger for some who share our mission. One GlobalWE affiliate has received death threats for speaking up about women’s empowerment. Some of our essay contest writers must remain anonymous for fear of being harmed if their participation is discovered. Therefore, since the beginning of our SIG’s existence, our firm commitment to political neutrality remains an ongoing, relentless challenge, but one to which we are devoted.
Of course, many of our members are politically active. And we encourage all who learn from our programs and events, and from the student essays we’ve collected, to be advocates and influencers, political or otherwise, outside of GlobalWE. Each year, we host events which connect our members, Harvard students, and other Harvard affiliates to women’s empowerment organizations, both political and nonpolitical, facilitating personal advocacy.
Some issues that impact women’s freedoms and rights are so controversial that they cannot be divorced from politics and ideology. For those, we have learned that remaining neutral is an advantage that allows us to welcome all voices on an issue rather than alienating some of our members by advocating for one side. In line with our political neutrality, we hosted an event in 2017, focusing on campus sexual assault, Title IX rules, and due process concerns, inviting views from several different perspectives. We hosted an event in 2019, showcasing an inspiring young woman, Annafi Wahed, who founded The Flip Side, a news source that offers analysis of US political issues from both conservative and liberal media.
Despite political and ideological controversies, we are able to shine a light on the human rights violations inherent in honor killings, female genital mutilation, and child marriage, which impact millions of women and girls around the world. From our very first event, a screening and discussion of the film Honor Diaries, we have struggled to maintain this position of neutrality. It seemed to us that Honor Diaries, which documented the work of human rights activists against honor violence, would be outside of politics and uncontroversial among Harvard alumni. But we were wrong. We heard from at least one alumna who worried that the film represented divisive anti-Islam propaganda. Our post-film discussion included one of the film’s featured human rights advocates, herself a practicing Muslim. The conversation included respectful and diverse discussions among Muslim and non-Muslim participants.
As political polarization has become more insistent, the demand that GlobalWE align with a particular political agenda has become louder. We will continue to avoid doing so for all of the reasons stated above. We sincerely and enthusiastically welcome all who care to learn more about human rights for women and girls to join our efforts.
(1) For more on unalienable rights, please see the recent Report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights. As reported by The Commission on Unalienable Rights (“The Commission”), the “UDHR articles include ‘the right to life, liberty and security of person’; protection against slavery and torture; guarantees of equality before the law and of due process; recognition of the right to private property; and the enumeration of other rights necessary to the preservation of liberty in a constitutional democracy, such as freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of association; freedom to take part in elections by universal and equal suffrage; and more.” These rights belong to all people in the world, and GlobalWE is committed to shining a bright light on places and situations where they are not granted to women and girls.