31 Mar 2020
Women of the IRCT: Lisa Henry

To mark the 2020 International Women’s Day (8 March), IRCT wants to celebrate the achievements of the many women in the anti-torture and rehabilitation movement. These amazing women dedicate their lives to ensure that torture survivors can be healed and obtain a meaningful life after torture. Over the next weeks IRCT will feature some of these women and ask them what this movement means to them and what's it's like being a woman in the anti-torture sector.

We conclude the series with Lisa Henry, IRCT Secretary General. With her always positive energy, vast knowledge and perserverance, IRCT can grow and reach the thousands of torture survivors in need. Lisa has been working in the humanitarian and development field for over 30 years.

Women of the IRCT: Lisa Henry

Why do you think working in this sector is important?

"I work in this sector because I believe in each individual’s obligation to support the enjoyment of universal human rights. I think torture is unacceptable. And should be stopped. I applaud front-line health workers who treat torture survivors wherever they may be. These front-line staff save lives. I applaud advocacy efforts which stop torture practices and win cases for torture survivors. I hear and react to opinions of torture survivors who know a reality that I don’t know at all."

Why do you think these problems exist?

"Duty bearers are negligent and disrespectful of basic human rights."

Do you think your work addresses the cause of the problem?

"Absolutely. When we advocate with irrefutable evidence to duty-bearers we can move mountains."

How did you become involved in this type of work?

"My mom and dad are active in their community, contributing valuable skills and countless volunteer hours, both formally and informally."

What inspired you to continue working for social change?

"Results. From the village of Guetsi in Niger (during my Peace Corps time), where community mobilization, strategic, local advocacy and timely fundraising resulted in 4 water wells supplying clean, adequate water to 4 villages. In the early 90s I was on the fringe of the International Campaign To Ban Landmines ICBL. It made sense."

What are some of the approaches and methods you use in your work?

"Listen. Support and take action on new ideas- some take off, others fail! Appreciate the privilege of working globally with cool, committed global citizens. Bring hard-working, professional and passionate people to the decision-making table."

What are some of the problems you face in your work as a woman?

"I am busy.  Actually I feel like I am 2 people in 1. And I like that. It is equally important for me to be a mom who is there for her 4 kids and her partner- from making burgers and cabbage salad together in the kitchen, to taking a walk so we can toss a ball with our puppy Kenya, to being on call when backpacking kids have food poisoning, to finding lost everything, to bridging work-life and homelife, and being good with that."

What do you like best about this work? 

"Best: Connecting people and seeing results out of that connection.

Least: Lack of hard-work and passion."

Do you consider yourself an activist?

"Yes, I consider myself an activist because my work involves an active response/activity which engages and involves those around me, both near and far, in the fight against torture."

What are ways that young women can take effective action for change in the community?

"Engage in a cause which is meaningful to you. But don’t take things so seriously! Enjoy the energy, give it your attention, spend some extra hours with like-minded folks and celebrate the results."

What role do you think women can play in the type of work your organization does?

"I think women who are professional, hard-working and passionate about their work bring a drive, effectiveness and enjoyment to the task at hand. This can bring a contagious energy and sense of purpose to a workplace which can transform a team to perform beyond their own expectations."

For more information

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality.

International Women's Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organization specific.

To read more, please visit: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

"I think women who are professional, hard-working and passionate about their work bring a drive, effectiveness and enjoyment to the task at hand. This can bring a contagious energy and sense of purpose to a workplace which can transform a team to perform beyond their own expectations."

-Lisa Henry, IRCT Secretary General

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