Development Practice degree links classroom academics, field applications

By Erin Crews | Emory in the World | Sep. 11, 2012

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Mia Gallegos conducts case interviews in Ethiopia for CARE's chronically food-insecure women's project.

In the wake of the 1994 genocide, during which as many as 500,000 women and girls were raped, Rwanda has seen transformative change in gender relations. The government created a national Gender Monitoring Office (GMO) and gender-based violence (GBV) desks in police stations and judicial institutions across the country. Women now make up more than half of Rwanda’s parliament, which in 2008 passed a landmark law on the prevention and punishment of GBV that encourages police action against rape and other crimes.

But these initiatives have not trickled down to the grassroots level. It is widely believed that GBV cases are chronically underreported, and victims struggle to gain access to needed services. The 1,572 cases of GBV investigated in a six-month period following the passage of the 2008 law vastly underrepresent the extent of the problem, according to a 2010 human rights report issued by the US state department.

Solid laws are in place. Why aren't they being implemented?

That’s the question that Alicia Clifton 12G and her colleagues spent last summer tackling. “We were documenting the failures in the process so that we could show the authorities, OK, this is where the process is breaking down,” she said. “The police aren’t taking the case, or the hospital isn’t referring the case to the court, or wherever the breakdown was in the process.”

Because the 2008 law was top-down, Clifton explained, “it’s not necessarily something that is embraced by the population, especially by the traditional leaders”—the abunzi, committees that mediate community disputes—“who would generally be men. The local community isn’t entirely on board—yet.”

Clifton was in Butare, Rwanda, working on CARE's Great Lakes Advocacy Initiative as part of Emory's new Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) program. Each summer, Emory sends MDP students on fieldwork assignments around the world to tackle complex development issues—whether it’s implementing GBV laws in Rwanda, combating food insecurity in Ethiopia, or improving literacy in Bolivia.

What sets the MDP program apart from traditional development studies programs is its capacity to link the classroom to the field.

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