To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, MSFS is highlighting the women in our program who strive to further gender equality and inclusion in their professional and personal lives. This piece focuses on one of our current first year students, Salwa Saba (MSFS ’21):
How has MSFS encouraged you to work at the intersection of women and international affairs?
I’ve been very fortunate to be part of a practicum course that focuses primarily on the role of women in negotiating peace processes, particularly in Afghanistan. Women usually pay the heaviest price in conflicts and yet their contributions to mediation are impactful and often lead to longer lasting peace. I’ve been able to interact with Afghan women who are committed to the stability and prosperity of the nation by uplifting all women to be more engaged in the peace process.
When I think about what sparked my interest in international affairs, it was my experiences as a child living in Yemen for a few years. In a country that—as of 2019—ranks last on the Women, Peace, and Security Index, the condition of women in Yemen has always been an issue I’ve paid attention to.
Not unlike my work on my Afghan practicum, there are a variety of historic and cultural factors that contributed to this issue in Yemen. Learning about womens’ security from an academic standpoint and speaking to experts in the field has increased my desire to focus on these issues.
Could you speak on being a minority women in the field of international affairs?
I am no stranger to being the only representative of my community in a room. This has been challenging at times—people tend to make assumptions as to why you are here or where you come from. But I am determined to incite change in the field and represent myself in this field as a Yemeni-American Muslim woman.
I’ve learned that surrounding myself with other women is empowering and I feel I have been able to do that with many of my MSFS peers. I am also lucky to have female mentors who continue to encourage and advise me throughout my academic and professional career.
Beyond MSFS, how will you work towards contributing to gender inclusivity in your professional capacity?
From the lack of gender inclusivity that I’ve seen in the field, especially in high-level positions, we still have a lot of work to do. Inclusivity—whether it is gender/identity, race, or religion—should be an important undertaking for all of us at MSFS as we build our professional careers.
Diverse representation in the field is important not only for foreign policy making but also to inspire others who might not otherwise see themselves pursuing a career in international affairs.