St. Olaf Campus News
- Advocate for women survivors of war to speak at St. Olaf
Humanitarian, author, and media commentator Zainab Salbi, a survivor of war who is dedicated to helping women in war-torn communities rebuild their lives, will speak at St. Olaf College April 21.
Her lecture, titled The Other Side of War: Women, Wartime, and the Dream of Peace, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Tomson Hall 280. Sponsored by the St. Olaf Political Awareness Committee, it is free and open to the public. It will be streamed and archived online.
At the age of 23, Salbi founded Women for Women International, a grassroots humanitarian and development organization dedicated to serving women survivors of wars. Under her leadership as CEO from 1993 to 2011, the organization grew to help more than 400,000 women in eight conflict areas around the world, distributing more than $100 million in aid and loans and impacting more than 1.7 million family members.
Salbi is the author of the national bestseller Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny — Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam (with Laurie Becklund). Salbi has also authored The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope and If You Knew Me, You Would Care.
She currently serves as editor-at-large at Women in the World Media, a news platform in collaboration with the New York Times that is hosted on the paper’s website.
Salbi is known for bringing international women’s issues to mainstream attention in the U.S., making philanthropy accessible to women at the grassroots level, and pioneering microcredit programs to post-conflict areas. Her mission had always been to build programs that combine access to knowledge with access to resources.
In 2010 former President Bill Clinton nominated Salbi as one of the 21st century heroes featured by Harper’s Bazaar. She has been named among the 100 most influential women in the world by Newsweek, The Guardian, and Fast Company, and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
Salbi has been featured by media outlets around the world, including CNN, The New York Times, and Financial Times, and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show 10 times.
- St. Olaf student awarded Humanity in Action Fellowship
A passion for human rights, a commitment to meaningful dialogue, and an enthusiasm for connecting with others who hope to create change has earned St. Olaf College student Merve Mert ‘17 a Humanity in Action Fellowship.
Humanity in Action is an educational organization that has established an international network of leaders, young professionals, and students who are committed to promoting human rights and democratic freedom.
The organization sponsors a summer fellowship that brings together students from Europe and the United States to study histories of discrimination and resistance as well as contemporary challenges to human rights and democracy.
Mert, who first heard about Humanity in Action through information provided by the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, was drawn to the opportunity to explore these issues, particularly those related to minority rights, as well as to study with like-minded students.
“Having the chance to meet passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds who care about human and minority rights and who are willing to take action to help fight discrimination is one of the things that excites me most,” says Mert, who will spend the summer in Amsterdam as part of the program.
As a co-captain of the St. Olaf Debate Team, a moderator of Sustained Dialogue, and an Inclusivity Advocate, Mert is deeply involved in the St. Olaf community. These commitments speak to her dedication to meaningful dialogue and her belief that “interaction is one of the first steps to understand the ‘other’ and meaningfully live together with people who are not necessarily like us.”
In addition, Mert has accumulated influential professional and academic experiences that will serve her in the fellowship program. Two summers ago, she interned at a think tank in her home country of Turkey called the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, where she worked with minority rights issues. And last summer, Mert was a Peace Scholar studying peace, dialogue, and conflict in Norway.
“Humanity in Action is the perfect next step for me after the Norway Peace Scholars program,” says Mert, who hopes to earn her master’s degree in a field related to international relations or human rights.
“I’m hoping that Humanity in Action will allow me to broaden my perspective, expand my knowledge on the rights issues pertaining to minorities, and connect with passionate young people who want to make a change in the world.”