Living the Dream as a UN PeacekeeperJanuary 21, 2014
Sometimes a dream formed in childhood ends there. You decide you don’t actually want to be a superhero, or a movie star, or a deep-sea diver. But sometimes it evolves into a lifelong pursuit. In the case of Sevara Khamzaeva, a 2005–06 International Fellow, a childhood dream has led her to a variety of countries, languages, and jobs. Her story started when she asked herself a question: Why are women so vulnerable to gender-based violence?
Last time we spoke with her, Khamzaeva was just starting her second master’s degree in international affairs at Columbia University. She had used her AAUW fellowship to return to her native Uzbekistan to research women’s reproductive rights. “I am so thankful for AAUW because the fellowship enabled me to develop educationally and helped me in my own personal growth,” she says. “In the right time, I was able to choose the right path for my career.”
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After her initial struggle with distance and change at Texas Woman’s University, Khamzaeva blazed an impressive trail at Columbia. She interned at a U.N. development program based in Afghanistan. She worked with the U.N. Office for Disarmament Affairs on developing “a framework of integrating gender perspective into the Program of Action to prevent illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.” This experience gave her an “in-depth insight into the role of the organization in the world. That’s when I knew that the United Nations would be a place where I would want to grow.” She then moved to Darfur to work at the U.N. peacekeeping mission there, “a dream come true.”
At present, Khamzaeva is a monitoring and evaluation officer in the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) section of the U.N. African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The work is heavy but she says, “Optimism and hope are two of my main resources that keep me going.”
Sevara Khamzaeva’s 2005–06 International Fellowship was sponsored by the Ruth Jane Stuck and Floy Swanson International Fellowship.
The Leading Thinkers List includes 134 individuals and organizations, but only 40 — about 30 percent — of them are women.
“The world can no longer afford the costs of violence against women and girls — the social and economic costs and the costs in deep human pain and suffering.”