A Washington Nationals baseball game isn’t the most likely place to begin a peacebuilding process, but that’s exactly where SIT Graduate Institute alumni Jaime Horn and Kim Massey saw two young women from Syria and the United States put their differences behind them.
Horn and Massey are the founders and sole staff members of the Andi Leadership Institute for Young Women (ALI), a new organization that brings together women from the United States and abroad for short-term peacebuilding and leadership workshops. The first ALI group, which included participants from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, spent three weeks in Washington, DC, and New York City this past August, where they engaged in dialogue sessions, met with prominent peace builders, and bonded during backyard barbecues and sporting events.
While ALI is a new organization, Horn and Massey have been friends since 2008, when they both enrolled in SIT’s Master of Arts in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation program. In between graduation and founding ALI, Massey worked for SIT’s Youth Peacebuilding and Leadership Programs, while Horn has worked as a consultant in DC, most recently at the Institute for Inclusive Security.
The ALI story began in 2003, when Horn befriended a woman named Andi Parhamovich while they were both working in New York City. They inspired each other to seek more meaningful careers, which eventually lead Horn to SIT, and Parhamovich to Iraq, where she was killed in 2007 while doing civil society work with the National Democratic Institute.
ALI was founded in Parhamovich’s memory, and the organization is a way for Horn to carry on her friend’s legacy and synthesize what she learned at SIT with what she was seeing in her work at the Institute for Inclusive Security.
“I knew that women were really left out of the peace process in high level negotiations, and that if more women were actually involved in peace processes, there would be a higher chance that they would succeed,” said Horn. “Half of all peace negotiations fail, and that’s because all stakeholders aren’t involved in the process.”
Horn decided the best way to get more women into peacebuilding processes was to help them get an earlier start, and support them with a network of like-minded women.
In Massey’s experiences with at-risk youth in wilderness programs as well as her work with SIT, she had seen how young men often dominated the discussions. She knew that when young women have their own spaces to tackle an issue, the opportunity to express themselves often gave them the confidence to be vocal outside of the workshops.
Though ALI has only run one program, the thoughtfulness of the program model has already paid off. During the final week, participants visited the U.S. Department of State and gave a presentation on how the United States can support women’s education in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
“They all spoke eloquently, the State Department officials were receptive, and they really came together as a group,” said Horn. “When they left, they were ecstatic and jumping up and down.”
Another highlight for the participants was the trip to New York City, where they met Rachel Maddow (who is also on ALI’s advisory board) and watched a rehearsal and live recording of her show.
Horn and Massey are aware of the challenges facing a startup nonprofit, but ALI continues to grow thanks to private donations and partnerships with larger organizations. They hope to run up to three short-term programs in 2014, and eventually to create a global network of ALI alumni who collaborate and mentor other young women leaders.
To learn more about ALI, visit andileadership.org, or watch a livestream of Horn and two ALI alumni speaking at TEDxAustinWomen on Thursday, December 5.