Peacebuilding and Human Rights
“I don’t normally teach people who are studying dance or music,” said human rights lawyer Andrea Galindo. “So although I’m not normally teaching only lawyers, because people working in human rights come from different backgrounds as well, this is a whole new level.”
This term, the Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) hosted Vahidin Omanović and Andrea Galindo, who spent short-term residencies at the College, during which they served on a panel during the 2018 Consortium Convening on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education.
In addition to these activities, Omanović and Galindo taught modules (three-week courses) on peacebuilding and international human rights, respectively.
"Andrea Galindo and Vahidin Omanović were tremendous assets to the students and faculty at CAPA this Spring term," said Director of CAPA Susan Sgorbati. "Not only were their courses valuable to current events in our world, but Andrea and Vahidin went far beyond their teaching, meeting with students and faculty outside of class for long discussions and conversations. We are so pleased that we are able to form these kinds of partnerships at CAPA."
Omanović is the co-founder and executive director of the Bosnia-based Center for Peacebuilding, which was established in 2004 as a way to help transform people’s minds and sow reconciliation between ethnic groups in the fallout after the Bosnian War.
Through CAPA, Omanović taught a Peacebuilding Seminar and Reflections on the Refugee Experience: What Can I Do? These courses drew from Omanović’s own experiential and professional knowledge to give students background on these topics, culminating with a challenge for students to assess how they can apply peacebuilding skills and address the global refugee crisis through their own lives and work.
“It’s beautiful to see that this young generation understands the need for peacebuilding and the need to work for social change,” said Omanović. “The reason I decided to come teach here is because I hoped some of them would understand that importance and would want to work in the field.”
Omanović has also taught peacebuilding at Bennington once before, in spring 2017. For the past several years, Bennington students have interned alongside Omanović at the Center over Field Work Term (FWT) and the summer.
“I hope that relationship will continue,” said Omanović. “I hope that students will find our organization and believe that what we do is inspiring enough to come and spend some time.”
Omanović is no stranger to Vermont himself. He attended the School for International Training (SIT) in Brattleboro, through which he received his master's degree in International Relations with a concentration in Conflict Transformation.
“Coming to Vermont feels like being back home,” said Omanović. “Every time I come here, I get more inspired by things that work here that we could use back home in Bosnia. It’s refreshing to learn about new methods from the States. It’s inspiring to see how this movement is building towards solutions.”
After his time at CAPA, Omanović plans to return to Bosnia to continue working on development activities, including opening a new farm.
“The idea with our farm is that it’s a healthy way to come back to nature,” said Omanović. “But it’s also about promoting healthy lifestyles, good products, and creating a safe space for people to talk about their problems with the community and find better ways to solve them.”
Galindo is a human rights lawyer who now predominantly works as a consultant, training other human rights professionals on how to navigate and utilize international and regional systems like the United Nations.
This residency at Bennington was Galindo’s third at the College. She taught modules on International Human Rights Law and Human Mobility and Human Rights, topics she often covers with government and NGO human rights workers.
“When I teach at universities, I normally give classes to students working on specialized master's degrees, so this is my first experience at the college level,” said Galindo. “It’s been enriching and refreshing to work with this age range. People in their 20s are so sharp; you learn a lot from them, how they see they world, and what human rights means to them.”
After her time at Bennington, Galindo is headed to the Caribbean to train NGO and government workers on how to utilize the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
“After the hurricanes last year, we’re trying to help people in those countries with new projects and methods,” said Galindo. “We want to create a situation in which they become more aware of what this system can offer and have the capabilities to advance human rights in their own countries.”
Both Omanović and Galindo have found their time at the College and their students’ input valuable to their professional work.
“My hope is that Bennington will continue to be present with our work in Bosnia,” said Omanović. “It’s a great opportunity for learning and also for finding solutions.”
By Natalie Redmond, Associate Writer