Former Peace Fellow pursues human rights
Francesca Del Mese, 2002-04 Rotary Peace Fellow
A barrister for the British government, Francesca Del Mese sought a Rotary Peace Fellowship in order to pursue international work.
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Watford, England, she applied and was accepted into the 2002-04 class at the University of Queensland in Australia. For her applied field experience, she worked in the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, and later prosecuted war criminals of the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. As a consultant at The Hague, she trained judges from Jordan on international criminal law.
Del Mese is one of more than 600 former peace fellows who have gone on to build peace in their communities and nations after completing their Peace Centers studies. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Rotary Centers for International Studies in peace and conflict resolution.
In 2007, Del Mese traveled to Uganda to advise a London-based nonprofit concerned with human rights violations stemming from the country’s 20-year civil war. Del Mese interviewed dozens of the some 30,000 Ugandan children who survived abduction.
“I typically would hear that they had been taken in the middle of the night by rebels, their families were murdered in front of them, and they were beaten and forced to fight for several years before either escaping or being released,” Del Mese said.
Having missed the chance to receive an education, those who returned home found only menial jobs with meager wages, such as picking up garbage or digging holes.
“Without education, their chances of getting better jobs were hopeless,” said Del Mese. “Many [interviewees] were specific about what they wanted to be: teachers, tailors, builders, accountants.”
Last year, Del Mese became the legal adviser, based in Geneva, for the UN Commission of Inquiry into atrocities committed in Syria. She has since moved back to the London area, but some dark memories have been difficult to escape, such as reviewing multiple torture cases.
“Now I bank well-being,” Del Mese says, explaining why she spends much of her free time walking her dog, Sadie, in the quiet woods near her home.
Current and former Rotary Peace Fellows, other Rotary Foundation alumni, and Rotarians will have an opportunity to hear the latest developments in peace and conflict resolution and learn practical skills from experts in the field during the Rotary World Peace Symposium in Bangkok, Thailand. The symposium, together with the Rotary Alumni Celebration, will be held 3-5 May, immediately preceding the 2012 RI Convention.
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