Inspiring Thursday: Reem Alsalem

Appointed Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences by the UN Human Rights Council, Reem Alsalem started this three year position on 1 August 2021. She is thereby tasked with ensuring that violence against women is integrated into the United Nations human rights framework and its mechanisms. 

After obtaining a Masters in International Relations from the American University in Cairo as well as a Masters in Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford, Alsalem went on to acquire two decades of experience in forced displacement and humanitarian work. The list of all the places she has worked in is longer than can be counted on two hands – Afghanistan, Central America, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Greece, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, and Syria. 

“Reem has traveled and lived abroad extensively, and has a profound respect for the local cultures and their resilience.” – Global Humanitude

In 2016, Alsalem became an independent consultant, mainly working on gender issues, migrant and refugee rights, transitional justice and humanitarian response. Her work includes consultancies for United Nations departments, agencies and programmes, but also for non-governmental organisations, governments, think tanks and academia. As the owner and founder of the Global Humanitude consulting company, Alsalem is dedicated to providing advice and support regarding humanitarian response methods. 

Before that, Reem worked as an international civil servant, serving with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Within her role, she planned and implemented different programmes aimed towards the protection of survivors of gender-based violence, thereby gaining first-hand experience in the field of violence against women. For example, part of her expertise includes assisting and protecting survivors of human trafficking, carrying out needs assessments, and designing protection policy and advocacy strategies.

Recently, Alsalem has spoken out about the new anti-abortion law adopted by the state of Texas. She accused those who voted in favour of exposing many women to potential violence, emphasising specifically the trauma and mental and physical suffering that this law exacerbates for women who become pregnant through rape or incest.

“Through this decision the supreme court of the United States has chosen to trample on the protection of women’s reproductive rights, thereby exposing them and abortion service providers to more violence.” – Reem Alsalem 

Another statement by UN experts that Alsalem was part of urged the government of Ghana to reject a proposed bill. This new bill would impose new and extreme imprisonment penalties on being LGBT+ or advocating for LGBT+ rights. Presenting the law as being a potential promoter of harmful practices such as torture, ‘conversion therapy’, unnecessary medical procedures and ‘corrective rape’ for wome, the team of UN experts concluded that the law would not only violate human rights and legitimise violence against LBTI women, but also restrict freedom of opinion and expression. With Reem Alsalem as Special Rapporteur for the next three years, we can expect more of such condemnations, paired with a strong determination to fight all violence against women and girls. 

Written by WAVE Intern India Stotesbury

Our last Inspiring Thursday: Anna Pavlovna Filosofova

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