Elizabeth A. Cafferty '97
The fact is that 80% of the 43 million people displaced by war and conflict around the world are women, children, and young people. They live amid chaos, violence, and injustice. In Darfur, collecting firewood to cook their food puts women at risk of rape.
And for women who happen to have physical disabilities, or who lack education or the ability to work, the risk to their lives becomes exponentially greater.
Since graduating from Holy Cross, Elizabeth Cafferty has given a voice to these women: those who have suffered in war-torn regions; those living around the globe who have had their rights violated, their human dignity stolen.
Twenty years ago when she arrived at Holy Cross, Elizabeth began studying in her major field of political science, a course of study which helped set a solid grounding for her plan to work in international relations. And it was also her exploration outside her major -- in Virginia Raguin’s course on women, art and philanthropy in 19th century New England and in Lorraine Attreed’s courses on women in the Middle Ages -- that helped provide valuable, memorable perspectives on the role of women in political and social life through the centuries and across continents.
From Mount St. James, Elizabeth went on to receive a master’s of social science in women’s studies and international development at the University of York in England.
Following her graduate work, Elizabeth spent eight years in London working on international human rights and development issues. She served as founding director of Women for Women International’s UK office and deputy executive secretary of the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics. Returning to New England, she worked at Massachusetts General Hospital as associate director of the Division for Global Health and Human Rights. There, she directed a pioneering international research study on sex trafficking of women and girls, and developed and managed a variety of international women’s health initiatives.
Today, Elizabeth is the senior advocacy officer of the Women’s Refugee Commission. By advising members of the United Nations Security Council, donor governments, and United Nations agencies, she works to improve the lives and protect the rights of women and girls who have been affected by conflict, disasters, and poverty. On any given day, that could mean working with UN agencies on drafting a Security Council resolution or creating guidelines on how to involve local women in the design and implementation of programs in the field.
Elizabeth’s work to improve life for women through policy and practice builds upon and advances the work and beliefs of countless women and men, past and present, including Pedro Arrupe and Peter Hans Kolvenbach, both former superior generals of the Society of Jesus, who have called attention to and improved the lives of the world’s refugees.
For accompanying, serving, and advocating for women and girls who are living with enormous loss and life-threatening violence; for her expertise and skills as researcher, adviser, and policymaker; and for the tenacity of her beliefs, actions, and commitment in bringing peace, justice, and empowerment to those who are suffering, the College of the Holy Cross presents to Elizabeth A. Cafferty the Sanctae Crucis Award.