Stanford’s Program on Human Rights (PHR) hired Nadejda Marques as its new program manager, according to a press release from the Freeman Spogli Institute.
Marques, who previously worked as the research coordinator for the Cost of Inaction Project at the Harvard School of Public Health, has 15 years of experience in human rights activism.
Marques said that PHR has several planned activities for the year aimed at responding to and capitalizing on student interest in human rights. The main focus of the year will be around issues addressing human trafficking. This topic will be explored in depth during a workshop with Madeleine Rees and Stanford faculty and graduate students in December, as well as in the Sanela Diana Jenkins Speakers Series in the winter and a conference in the spring designed to further develop an ongoing human trafficking research agenda.
“The problem with trafficking is that criminal and immigration law haven’t worked so far to cure the problem,” said Helen Stacy, director of the PHR and senior fellow at the Center for Democracy Development and Rule of Law (CDDRL). “Numbers are going up, trafficking is more and more being run by underground rings that run drugs, run arms and now people. So the problem is growing and because it’s now part of this large, illegal black market; the violence and the brutality is also getting worse.”
Marques emphasized both the severity of the problem as well as its potential for richness in academic study, making it an ideal focus for Stanford’s human rights initiative.
“It’s a pressing issue, of course, but also the way that human trafficking correlates with urban violence . . . the way it correlates with exploitation and labor rights . . . the way it correlates with immigration . . . All those things come together, and it’s a very, very rich topic academically as well as serving something for activists,” Marques said.
“There are so many ways [to teach human rights],” she continued. “There are ways to use art, to use drama, to use music . . . and that’s really empowering.”
Another initiative, the Human Rights Collaboratory, will hold workshops that focus on issues of human well-being and the environment. PHR will also focus on developing human rights curricula to help high school and college teachers incorporate the study of human rights into their classroom — whether they teach math, science or humanities.
Finally, PHR will also hold a regional human rights series, which will focus on Latin America this year — an appropriate emphasis, given Marques’ background — and will continue to sponsor the Undergraduate Human Rights Fellowship.
“We want to grow the undergraduate student community that works on human rights,” Stacy said.
Marques, a native of Brazil, was born during the country’s authoritarian period, making human rights a pressing issue for her on a very personal level.
“I experienced abuse of civil rights from an early age,” she said. “I always wanted to be involved with human rights.”
Marques lost her father to the dictatorship — he was tortured and killed when she was nine months old. Her mother then fled Brazil and lived as a refugee until she and Marques were reunited with the help of Amnesty International a year later.
Stacy said that Marques’ experience greatly colors her work in human rights.
“[Marques] has her own personal perspective from her own life and her family’s life . . . that means she is intensively empathetic, has a deep desire to see changes in the world and the humor and persistence to persist at difficult problems,” Stacy said.
While Marques was forced to confront human rights issues early on in her personal life, she soon started tackling them professionally as well. She has worked as a foreign correspondent for the Washington Post, has a long history of working with Human Rights Watch in Brazil and Angola and, prior to coming to Stanford, worked at the Harvard School of Public Health as a research coordinator for the Cost of Inaction Project at the François-Bagnoud Xavier Center for Health and Human Rights.
“I think Stanford — [along with] many schools around the state and the world — is moving forward with this human rights education and trying to develop human rights within [its] curriculum and to get students interested,” she said.