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London-based human rights lawyer Amal Clooney looks on during an event organized by Amnesty International.(FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

The good fight

6 women who are building bridges — not walls — with countries of conflict

By Isabel Calkins on March 8, 2017

President Trump this week signed a newly-revised executive order temporarily banning travel from six Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East. And just two weeks ago, the Trump administration made its first move toward building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Amid this political climate of fear and division, however, there are some women who are doing often overlooked work in international affairs and relations to promote goodwill. Whether it is advocating for women in Congo or defending the rights of children in war-torn countries, there are a plethora of women in this field whose efforts often go unseen. In order to change that, here are six women who are taking charge in communities across the world to build bridges — not walls — between countries and regions of conflict and despair.

Nadia Roumani

Nadia Roumani (Facebook).

In 2008, Nadia Roumani co-launched the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. The group helps young Muslim nonprofit executives and public officials realize their full potential to foster healthy and engaged communities. To make this endeavor as successful as possible, Roumani has worked with several grant making foundations that are supporting Muslim communities in America or addressing U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Along with this position, Roumani is currently the Consultant Program Officer for the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program, which aims to improve American’s understanding of Muslim societies through arts and media.

Nina Ansary

Author Nina Ansary.

Throughout her life, Dr. Nina Ansary has harnessed a global platform of over a quarter of a million followers that offers women’s activists in Iran a voice in the West and builds a bridge to Western feminism in support of women living in a culture of oppression. Ansary has also been a Women in the World contributor. This leadership is also shown in her book, Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran, which was created to shatter the stereotypes about Iranian women in the West. The book, which won the 2016 International Book Award in “Women’s Issues,” donates 100 percent of its proceeds to charities supporting women in Iran.

Judy Cheng-Hopkins

Judy Cheng-Hopkins (United Nations).

As the special adviser of the secretary-general on the University for Peace, Judy Cheng-Hopkins is responsible for helping countries as they emerge from war and conflict. In that role, she helps coordinate all other U.N. agencies in their peace-building efforts.

In 1980, the University of Peace was created in order “to provide humanity with an international institution of higher education for peace with the aim of promoting among all human beings the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, to stimulate cooperation among peoples and to help lessen obstacles and threats to world peace and progress, in keeping with the noble aspirations proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations,” per the U.N.. In Hopkins is instrumental in maintaining this mission in countries all over the world.

Amal Clooney

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.(FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Attorney and activist Amal Clooney has never been shy about standing up for what she believes in. In her work as a barrister for Doughty Street Chambers, a law firm that specializes in civil liberties work, Clooney has been a strong advocate for human rights, particularly in countries of conflict.

She has been a part of several extremely high profile cases including Yulia Tymoshenko, former Ukranian prime minster, Muammar Qaddafi’s intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. Clooney also played a key role in the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative in the U.K. which works to defend the rights of women in war zones, and represented Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who survived being kept as a sex slave by ISIS.

Susan Herman

ACLU president Susan Herman (Twitter).

As the president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Susan Herman is on the front lines of social justice and change, especially when it comes to countries of conflict. Just as the ACLU believes, Herman stands firmly by the belief that no matter what religion, race, or sex you are, you have the same rights as everyone else in the United States. When she was elected in October 2008, Herman had already served on the Board of Director for 20 years, the executive committee for 16 years, and the general counsel for 10 years.

Through and through, Herman believes in the rights of individuals and making sure the United States government upholds them. She has written numerous publications on the topic including two books: Terrorism, Government, and Law: National Authority and Local Autonomy in the war on Terror, and The Right to a Speedy and Public Trial.

Salma Hayek

Actress Salma Hayek. Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images)

Although most people know Hayek as a successful movie actress, she is involved in much more than a glitzy Hollywood career. Hayek, who is from Mexico, is involved with several organizations to raise awareness about violence against women and discrimination against immigrants. She is currently on the board of the Kering Foundation which combats violence against women, and Chime for Change, a campaign led by fashion brand Gucci to promote women’s rights worldwide.

In addition, Hayek is also an advocate for refugees and just this year began sponsoring a small orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico, through HALO.