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March 07, 2014

Women's Month Profile: Samantha Power

By Jess Ballance

This week, Human Rights First will profile just a few of the millions of women worldwide who are fighting discrimination and gender-based violence, who work tirelessly to make universal human rights for women a reality. On March 8, International Women’s Day, thousands of events will be held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements; the United States designates the whole month of March as Women’s History Month. At Human Rights First, whether we’re helping female refugees or partnering with activists working on the frontlines, we make women’s human rights a priority.

Samantha Power saw firsthand the horror of mass atrocities as a freelance journalist in Bosnia in the early 1990’s. To her, just as shocking as the crimes against humanity that she witnessed there was the failure of the United States to intervene on the conflict there. Her passion and compassion led her to write a 600-page book about genocide, which highlight the failure of the United States to try to halt atrocities not just in Bosnia but also in Iraq, Cambodia, and Rwanda. The book, A Problem From Hell, won a Pulitzer Prize and triggered a discussion about when and how the United States should intervene to halt atrocities. It also established Samantha Power as a leading thinker in the human rights movement.

After teaching at Harvard’s Kennedy School where she was the founding executive director at the Carr Center for Human Rights policy, she joined the Obama Administration as a special assistant to the President and the senior director of the Multilateral Affairs and HumanRights on the National Security Council. During her time in office, she focused on issues including UN reform, LGBT and women’s rights, and human trafficking.

Last year, she became the U.S. ambassador the United Nations where she works to advance U.S. interests, promote and defend universal values, and address pressing global challenges to global peace, security, and prosperity.

At Politico’s Women Rule: Driving the Conversation event, Samantha Power describes how her human rights background play out in her roles as part of the Obama Administration. She says:

What I tried to do in my past writing is talk with people who are making policy choices. And, you know, at no point did I pretend that it was easy… sometimes it takes time to convince others within your own government. So I tried, in my past work, not bang the drum and say ‘thou shalt do this or that’ but really try to situate people, you know, inside a system. So I did, when I first got to the White House in 2009, I did, when I would walk into policy meetings, I would feel ‘intruder alert, intruder alert,’ because I felt like I was suddenly in those meetings and that was an adjustment for me.

Human Rights Firsts salutes Ambassador Power for her tireless efforts in advancing human rights around the world.

Watch Samantha Power’s Interview at Politico’s Women Rule event.