• By Barnabas Ticha Muvhiti Here in South Africa, I am one of approximately 180,000 holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP). In November 2021, the South African government announced it would not renew the ZEP at the end of 2021, instead giving Zimbabweans who held a ZEP a ‘grace period’ of one year to apply for mainstream permits from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). The decision caught us unawares and renewed or reinforced our sense of limbo and instability. In this article I reflect on the situation and describe the mixed reactions of fellow Zimbabweans. As a ZEP holder, my feelings and views are not necessarily those of others or representative of others in this group. I have tried to incorporate other Zimbabweans’ views expressed on social media platforms and in the mainstream media. I employ Shona adjectives for subheadings. Shona is my first language and is spoken by the majority of Zimbabwe’s 15 million people. Read the Report

  • By Felix Tapilira Chilumpha Unlike in neighboring South Africa where refugees are free to mix with the general population as they are being processed, Botswana confines most refugees and asylum-seekers either at the Centre for Illegal Immigrants in Francistown, at the provincial capital, or in Dukwi Refugee Camp. This camp is in eastern Botswana, a two-hour drive from Francistown, and over 500 kilometers from the capital of Gaborone. Dukwi Camp runs some educational facilities on-site, but these provide only basic education up to the secondary school level. For post-secondary education, refugee students have to fend for themselves, as they cannot access the government sponsorship afforded to Botswana nationals. This means most refugee students are unable to attend tertiary education in Botswana. The government’s policy also restricts employment for refugees, which results in refugees’ dependency on handouts from the government and other aid agencies. For tertiary education, however, a welcome change has recently occurred, as a number of tertiary institutions have begun offering special scholarships to refugee students. Read the Report

  • By Karen Jacobsen and Kim Wilson One of the biggest challenges facing refugees and migrants is navigating the livelihoods and financial landscape of a camp or city after they arrive in a host or transit country. This camp or city may be their intended destination or a place of transit; nevertheless, they may spend several years there, and need to find a way to survive financially, support themselves and their families (including those still back home), and hopefully even thrive. We refer to this achievement as ‘financial health.’ This report is based on a study, Finance in Displacement (FIND), that explores how refugees navigate financial and livelihoods obstacles, and the strategies that enable them to manage their finances, access financial services, and attain some measure of financial health and sustainable livelihoods. We focus on two host countries, Uganda and Mexico, both with large numbers of diverse groups of refugees, many of whom have been displaced for years. Originally published at The Journeys Project. Download

  • By Kim Wilson. “I have twelve children of my own, but after the war, I ended up with twenty-one children in my care.” This is the story of Nyaring, who fled South Sudan for Kampala in 2015 . Nyaring and her husband’s two other wives looked after their many children. “He had three plots of land, so we [the wives] each lived on a plot, and our children would fetch water, cut grass, and clean houses and we survived on that money.” There, life was peaceful. “When my husband died, we all separated. He was a known person for working with activists and he was targeted and killed.” Though Nyaring’s departure was frantic, her destination was clear — Kampala to Bishop Munde. The Bishop had become a beacon for so many and had grown famous for his generosity. From there, she would get her bearings and make her next steps. Like others fleeing South Sudan, Nyaring’s start in Kampala was a desperate one. The oldest child in her care was eighteen and the youngest was five. Not only did the bishop provide shelter, but he paid for school fees as much as he was able. Her story is similar to many other refugees’ whose financial and economic journeys started with help from friends, a place of worship, or friendly police.

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  • To our alumni and friends, It has been another challenging six months for human security. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has displaced millions of people while contributing to escalating fuel and food prices around the world. Several countries in Africa are on the verge of famine. Meanwhile, the horrific shootings in Buffalo, NY and Uvalde, Texas – part of an epidemic of gun violence in the United States – remind us that threats to human security are not far from home. And, sadly, these incidents intersect with other unresolved problems such as corrupt governance, militarized borders, systemic racism, climate change, and a pandemic that is still with us. Rather than despair, however, we must continue to search for creative solutions to these complex challenges. At Leir, we do so by revealing and then building on instances of human resilience and ingenuity in the face of these enormous obstacles. We have been busy working toward this goal in the last six months. As elaborated in this newsletter, Leir continued to host the following four projects: Building Resilience in Immigrant Communities (BRIC): a joint initiative with Tisch College and a local organization assisting African refugees and immigrants (ACEDONE) to co-create a program for women’s empowerment in the Boston area.Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy (CJL): a research-to-practice initiative committed to improving the effectiveness of anti-corruption programming in contexts of endemic corruption.Journeys Project: a cross-regional collection of migrant stories to better understand the costs and strategies involved in their journeys as well as the economic approaches they use when putting down roots in new surroundings.Program in Human Security and Inner Development (PHUSID): a skills-building initiative to better prepare students to work effectively and practice self-care in violent or fragile contexts. We also welcomed two new projects to the Leir Institute: Digital Portfolios of the Poor (DPP): a multi-year, multi-country project aimed at creating better digital financial products for the poor by understanding how emerging technologies are viewed, used, understood, and perceived in low income settings, particularly among women.Refugees in Towns (RIT): a multi-sited initiative to understand the migrant/refugee experience by drawing on the knowledge and perspectives of refugees themselves as well as local hosts. In addition, we organized a series of seminars, workshops, and conferences that explored diverse aspects of human security and provided funding to support human security-related research by Fletcher doctoral and master’s students.  Last but not least, we completed the strategic positioning process mentioned in our Fall newsletter. Drawing on extended conversations with Leir faculty and students, Fletcher alums, practitioners, and donors, we determined that Leir’s niche is at the intersection of human security and migration. People around the world are fleeing human insecurity in the form of war, economic collapse, non-state violence, and climate change. Meanwhile, displacement creates its own human security challenges by jeopardizing livelihoods and safety, particularly in the context of militarized responses by states. Not surprisingly, a growing number of Fletcher students are interested in exploring these intersections. And where better to do so than at the Leir Institute, which has deep expertise across these different but integrally connected issues.Based on this determination, we are planning some exciting changes at the Leir Institute. We have crafted a new mission statement and will change our name to the Henry J. Leir Institute for Migration and Human Security. We have also articulated three main areas of work moving forward: Connecting and creating synergies between experts on migration and experts on drivers of displacement such as conflict, violence, social exclusion, governance failures, and climate change;Training current and future policymakers and practitioners to bring human security expertise and adaptive leadership skills to government, international organizations, humanitarian assistance, and civic advocacy; and,Partnering with local NGOs and government agencies to build local capacity and produce applied research that uses innovative methodologies informed by the human security approach. Over the next several months, we will be launching our rebrand along with a redesigned website that will be easier to navigate and more visually appealing. To help with this endeavor, we have hired Jacob Ewing, a freshly minted Fletcher graduate, as the new Leir Project Manager. Jacob will be managing the Leir team, coordinating Leir events and outreach, and working closely with me to strengthen Leir’s institutional and financial foundation. To celebrate our new direction, our Alumni Spotlight features two alums working at the intersection of migration and human security: Emily Butera (F04) and Will Clements (F20). Stay tuned, and do not hesitate to reach out if you have ideas, concerns, or questions. As always, we welcome your ideas, feedback, and financial support as we continue with this important work. Wishing you health and safety, Katrina BurgessDirector, Henry J. Leir Institute Read More

  • To our alumni and friends, I had hoped to write this letter with a clearer view of our post-pandemic future but find myself wondering, yet again, what the winter holds. Like many universities, Tufts is ending the semester with rising cases and a last-minute shift to online exams despite our vaccine mandate and weekly testing protocol. And we are the lucky ones. Elsewhere, vaccine hesitancy and vast distributional inequities continue to fuel the pandemic at great human and economic cost while climate change, securitized borders, and increasingly bellicose behavior by authoritarian states further compromise human security. Our work at the Leir Institute remains difficult but all the more essential under these conditions.  As you will read in this newsletter, we have been busy over the last few months. Two ongoing projects hosted by the Leir Institute – the Journeys Project, led by Kim Wilson, and the Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) Program, led by Cheyanne Church and Diana Chigas – produced a steady stream of innovative and path-breaking work. We also launched two new projects – Building Resilience in Immigrant Communities (BRIC), in collaboration with Tisch College and ACEDONE, a local African refugee and immigration organization, and the Program in Human Security and Inner Development (PHUSID) in collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark. And, in an exciting new collaboration with Leir Senior Fellow Daryl Collins, we received a $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for Digital Portfolios of the Poor, a multi-country initiative to understand how the poor, especially women, perceive value and risk tradeoffs in usage of digital technologies. This project is slated to begin in January 2022. We also organized several events including a Migration Luncheon, a panel on the US-Mexico border, a session on Co-Creating a Path to Inner Development Goals, a pre-doctoral seminar series, and an intensive workshop on Resolving Conflict with Empathy. In addition, we co-sponsored student-led conferences on Decolonizing International Relations and Gender in International Relations. Our community grew as well. We welcomed two new Leir Fellows: Senior Fellow, Kimberly Howe, who is an expert on the well-being of war-affected populations from a gendered perspective, and visiting Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Diogo Eiji Yoshida, who is conducting field research with Brazilian immigrant organizations in the Boston area. We also granted summer internshipsupport to three MALD students and Pre-Doctoral Fellowships to three Fletcher PhD students. And we are honored to feature two Fletcher graduates at the cutting edge of human security in our Alumni Spotlight. We are currently recruiting a new Project Manager and strongly encourage Fletcher graduates to apply (see below). Finally, we embarked on a strategic positioning process to hone Leir’s mission, roles, and constituencies to ensure our institutional relevance and sustainability at a time when a human security approach is more needed than ever. The results of this process will inform a major overhaul of our website and fundraising campaigns around specific initiatives. We welcome your ideas, feedback, and financial support as we move forward with these initiatives.  Stay tuned, and do not hesitate to reach out if you have ideas, concerns, or questions. If you haven’t done so already, please register in the database of Fletcher alumni who would like to be more engaged with the Institute.   Wishing you health and safety this holiday season and in the new year, Katrina BurgessDirector, Henry J. Leir Institute Read More

  • To our alumni and friends, It has been a very eventful seven months since my last letter in October 2020. Much has been lost, most notably the millions of lives taken by the pandemic. We have also witnessed further abuses of power by police and security forces and a growing incidence of discrimination and hate crimes in many countries. In the United States, further attempts at voter suppression and a spate of attacks against Asian-Americans followed an assault on the U.S. Capitol by a riotous mob seeking to overturn the 2020 elections. The burden of these losses has fallen disproportionately on poor and marginalized communities, whose livelihoods have also suffered. And, across the board, states are implicated either directly through their use of violence or indirectly through their blatant disregard for collective well-being.Much has also been learned, however. The scientific community has collaborated and worked tirelessly to produce Covid-19 vaccines in record time. People from all walks of life have raised their voices against racist policing and hate speech, sparking much deeper conversations about systemic racism and decolonization around the world. And the pandemic has exposed preexisting fault-lines linked to rising inequality, the spread of exclusionary nationalism, inadequate public healthcare systems, and the undervaluing of essential workers, many of whom are immigrants.Human security is at the heart of many of these struggles and challenges, which makes the work we do at Leir that much more important. Faced with quarantines and travel restrictions during the 2020/2021 academic year, we turned to digital technologies to bring people together and engage with these and other critical issues in human security. We highlighted the themes of migration, social norms, contemplation, public health, essential work, detention/incarceration, and racial justice. We also prioritized and provided spaces for diverse and often underrepresented voices. You can read more about these activities in this newsletter and on our website.We also welcomed two new Senior Policy Fellows: Daryl Collins, author of Portfolios of the Poor and a pioneer working at the intersection of finance and human vulnerability, and Jayshree Venkatesan, a financial sector specialist with over 15 years of experience in financial inclusion spanning investments and consulting. In September, we will be joined by a new Visiting Fellow in Human Security, Diogo Eiji Yoshida, a Brazilian doctoral candidate at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, who is writing his dissertation on the sociocultural and psychological adaptation of Brazilian immigrants in the United States and Japan.Looking ahead, we plan to sustain our existing projects while developing new streams of research and programming. One exciting initiative in the early stages of development is a formal collaboration with Aarhus University in Denmark to build a multi-year program on Human Security and Contemplative Practice: From Ego-System to Eco-System. We hope to have more details to share with you in the next few months. We are also pursuing funding for at least two migration-related initiatives: a financial literacy training program for refugees and migrants in the Boston area and a multi-media project on disrupted mobilities along the U.S.-Mexico border. We welcome your feedback and engagement in these projects.Beyond these specific initiatives, we are launching a three-month process aimed at honing and implementing the “strategic positioning” of the Leir Institute in the field of human security. By better defining its niche and comparative advantage, Leir will be more effective in identifying funders and partners, explaining its value, and working efficiently. The process will include interviews with our various stakeholders, so we may be reaching out to some of you over the summer. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at closing, I want to acknowledge the staff and students who supported me as members of the Leir team, with special thanks to Maria Teresa Nagel, our outgoing Assistant Director, and Neiha Lasharie, our outgoing lead research assistant. Without their work, dedication, and good humor, we would have accomplished very little and had much less fun doing it. They have both moved on to new challenges but only after leaving a solid foundation for the new Leir team coming on board over the next few months.Please stay tuned, and do not hesitate to reach out if you have ideas, concerns, or questions. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to register in the database of Fletcher alumni who would like to be more engaged with the Institute. Wishing you health and safety, Katrina BurgessDirector, Henry J. Leir Institute Read More