Meet Florence Adong: Ugandan Refugee Camp Protection OfficerNovember 21, 2008
In June 2008 the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted into existence a resolution that, according to Marianne Mollmann, women’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch, sends a message to the international community that “rape is a crime that should be prevented, and when it’s not, it should be systematically reported and effectively prosecuted.” The UNICEF website says that Resolution 1820 recognizes the status of sexual violence as “a war crime, a crime against humanity, a form of torture, and a constituent act of genocide.”
Florence Adong of Uganda, an AAUW 2007–08 International Fellow, says the Security Council resolution matches her thesis research in declaring rape a weapon of war. The strength of the resolution, she explains, is that it “strikes a blow at the culture of impunity that surrounds sexual violence in armed conflicts and allows rapists to walk without fear of punishment.”
Florence writes in her master’s thesis that the International Criminal Court should prosecute rape in Darfur “as an element of genocide as well as a war crime and a crime against humanity.” She argues that “the only way the women of Darfur can receive justice for crimes perpetrated against them is by extending the potency of international criminal justice through the prosecution at the ICC.” Florence’s interest in the ICC developed through an internship that led her to study at Utrecht University, which is connected with the court. She hopes her research will influence the way perpetrators of sexual violence against women in Darfur are prosecuted.
This research and the pursuit of her master’s degree in law were possible in part through the support of the AAUW Educational Foundation’s International Fellowship. Florence says, “The role AAUW has played in granting me this fellowship to pursue my master’s degree was like a catapult. In fact, I owe my credibility to the Foundation.”
After completing her master’s, Florence moved back to Uganda to take a position as a protection officer at a U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) camp in Uganda. According to the 2008 World Refugee Survey conducted by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Uganda has hosted approximately 235,800 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Sudan, but also from other African neighbors. In her position, Florence conducts extensive research as well as “coordinating and lobbying with the government” to accept refugees. Florence says she is happy to be back in Uganda and that her two years living abroad altered her vision for the country. “I discovered that Uganda has even greater potential and resources for development, to the level of and even beyond Holland but for the corruption.”
In her new position with UNHCR, Florence is able to play an influential role in the lives of African women refugees. Many of the concerns raised about the U.N. resolution on rape were about how the U.N. would enforce the resolution. Women like Florence are working closely with the U.N. Refugee Agency to ensure that refugee women are getting the care and attention they need.