Human and Civil Rights for Marginalized Communities | A Multi-Regional Project

In June of 2022, Meridian implemented a multi regional International Visitor Leadership Program titled, "Human and Civil Rights for Marginalized Communities". This project brought together 17 NGO leaders, human rights advocates, activists, lawyers, and journalists from 17 countries to examine how the United States seeks to defend and protect the human rights of marginalized communities. Meetings with human rights organizations that focus on vulnerable populations illustrated the strategies of practitioners who advocate for the rights of marginalized communities and demonstrated how they present their demands to government and social influencers. It addressed approaches to defending the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, members of the LGBTQI+ community, refugees, internally displaced persons, and other vulnerable populations. The group explored global perspectives on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) and gathered insight into American society and culture.

Highlights in Washington, DC included a meeting with Human Rights Watch and a workshop on Optimizing Inclusive Leadership: Exploring DEIA through a Global Lens. A day trip to Baltimore provided an eye-opening experience at the NAACP where the group discussed the current social, economic, and educational challenges that the African American community still faces today.

The group then traveled to various cities starting with Pensacola, Florida where they were ceremoniously named "Honorary Citizens of Pensacola" by Council Member Sherri Myers. Ms. Myers also shared her experience as a lawyer advocating for women and minority rights including those with disabilities, the homeless and LGBTQI+ people.

Participants then split up into three separate cohorts, traveling to Akron, Ohio, Des Moines, Iowa, and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Akron included the highly lauded meeting with the Akron Area Interfaith Council (AAIC), which provided space for a deep two-way exchange about the work that the participants and members of AAIC do with underserved populations in their communities, and evolved into how to engage the “majority groups” as allies. In Des Moines, NISAA African Family Services highlighted their adaptation program that helps African immigrants and refugees blend in with the community. The Kalamazoo contingent were impressed with how Men of Purpose inspires young black men to plan for the future and develop their passion.

The project concluded in San Francisco, California where the group was fascinated with the work of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) protecting unaccompanied children who enter the U.S. immigration system alone. Participants raved about the meeting with the City and County of San Francisco, Department on the Status of Women, stating that they were impressed with the two speakers’ visions and aspirations and how they use funding creatively for grassroots efforts.

Paolo Camacho of the Philippines summed up the experience by stating how "Participating in this program really gave me a different perspective, particularly how the U.S. is responding to a long history of oppression…Hearing from the people who are doing the work, from global NGOs and watchdogs to community-based organizations showed that there is a lot going on in these spaces."






Sponsors & Partnerships

Global Ties Akron
International Visitor Leadership Program, U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Colleagues International
Global Ties San Francisco
Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council
Iowa International Center
World Trade Center Institute

Project summary

Human and Civil Rights for Marginalized Communities | A Multi-Regional Project | June 2022
Number of Visitors: 17
Regions: Africa, East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, Near East and North Africa, South and Central Asia, Western Hemisphere
Countries: Australia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Germany, Hong Kong SAR China, Israel, Malaysia, Montenegro, Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, Serbia, Tajikistan, United Kingdom
Impact Areas: Human and Civil Rights
Program Areas: Global Leadership