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We The Women - Meet Alice Regis

Meet Alice

Alice chose her academic path motivated by her strong passion and a deep desire to make a difference in the world. In 2018 she got a bachelor’s degree in Political Sciences and International Relations at Università degli Studi di Roma - La Sapienza, with a final essay in Internal Law on the Ayotzinapa mass kidnapping. Then, she continued to study, pursuing in 2021 a master’s degree in Human Rights and Multi-level Governance at the Università degli Studi di Padova, with a thesis on migrants’ right of defence. After the master’s degree, she chose to also attend a Master of Arts in Refugee Integration at the Dublin City University which she obtained after presenting a thesis on the link between migrant women's integration and the gender-based violence they experienced in Italy. In relation to herexperience, she have always worked with activists. Indeed, in 2014 she became an activist for Amnesty International Italy, for this organisation Alice covered different roles such as the Spokeswoman of the Youth Group of Rome, the Representative of Youth Activism, the Activism Coordinator for Amnesty International Lazio, and Vice-chair of Amnesty Lazio, a regional office of Amnesty International Italy. For Amnesty International Italy she also covered the role of Assistant coordinator of the Summer Academy in Lampedusa, which was an activity included in the European project Start the Change. This project was focused on the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular on migration and climate change, and it was addressed to young European activists. In 2021, she worked as Research Officer for ECPAT International, investigating child sexual exploitation, especially in India and Peru. In 2022, Alice worked for the Irish Countrywomen’s Association as Communications and Engagement Officer. Currently, she works at Amnesty Ireland as Activism and Engagement Officer.

Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.

My family is composed mainly of women. Therefore, there is not just one person who inspired me. My mother, my sisters, my childminders with whom I have grown-up, my aunts, and my cousins. Those are the women who inspired me. I have learned from all of them how to be an independent and free woman. They have concretely shown me that a woman does not need to fit into the standards imposed by a patriarchal society. They have all guided me through the pain of realising that this world is still dominated by cisgender white men, all the women in my family have taught me how to channel my anger, they showed me the activism way.

What led to your decision to become a human rights defender?

I started my personal activism journey when I was 14 years old. I did not know what activism was, I just started attending protests and demonstrations fighting human rights violations happening in my own Country. I started feeling all injustice on my skin as if it was happening to me. I was angry and outraged, but I did not know how to channel those feelings. I can vividly remember my first protest. It happened in 2010, and it was a rally against homophobia in Italy. At the time, in an extremely far right country, the LGBTI community was stigmatised and marginalised. Therefore, coming from a rainbow family, I felt the urge to do something. I gathered some friends, and I explained to them the situation. We created some t-shirts with the article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights printed on and we attended the rally. From that moment on, I could not stop standing and acting against any human rights violation. In that exact moment I understood that activism would have been my future. I am a human rights defender because I find it extremely unfair that only certain people can exercise their fundamental rights while everybody should. Still since 2010 I feel every injustice on my skin as if it was happening to me . I firmly believed that activism is the tool to transform your indignation into action.

What are the major challenges that you are facing as a female human rights defender?

Usually, as a female and as a feminist activist I am accused of being too angry, too aggressive, I am accused of exaggerating. These kinds of accusations usually come from men. It can be challenging to spread the human rights culture if those who should listen to female activists are not taking us seriously. Personally, at the very beginning, I tried to analyse my activism, I tried to understand why I was perceived as too much. After a while, I realised that it was because of my battles. I usually fight against patriarchy, machism, and rape culture which are extremely related with women’s human rights, especially when speaking about topic such as climate change or migrations. Do not get me wrong, my battles are not the problem at all, the problem is the society in which we live that perceive and will perceive a female and feminist activist as too much. Some other times, I am not considered as a source of correct information or as a person who can be taken into consideration when it comes to human rights. This is because I am “just” a female activist. Activists, and especially female ones, are not considered nor treated as experts, but as simple volunteers. We are not, activism and volunteering are two different things and activists conduct a really deep study on the topics related to the fights they fight. Female activists even more due to the fact that sometimes they are considered as troublesome interlocutors as explained above.

What are your suggestions/tips for future human rights defenders?

1. Do not surrender to frustration! Change requires time and energy. It can be frustrating to fight all your life for a cause and then understand that still after several years nothing has changed. Please, always keep in mind that we are fighting for the next generations. We might not see the results of our battles, but future generations will surely! 2. Take breaks. Activism can be overwhelming and the risk of a burn out is high, especially because we deal with terrible human rights violations. I strongly recommend taking some pause every now and then, to recharge your batteries and be back better than before! 3. Colleague and friends are the key. Share your feelings and workload with other human rights defenders. You are all on the same boat, they can get you perfectly! Working in a team also means to avoid carrying on a very heavy emotional and/or workload! 4. Always remember to collaborate with the communities that are impacted by human rights violations the most! Do not forget, we must share a fight, not be spokesperson of someone else’s battles. We are not saviours, we are human rights defenders supporting a cause!

What is your insight about the interconnection between human rights and climate change?

I think that climate change hugely impacts human rights. To understand their interconnection you can analyse any disaster provoked by climate change. Unusual storms for example use to devastate the areas they pass by. Due to heavy and unexpected storms, people lose their lives, their houses, their jobs, they are not able to access public services, they cannot go to school or universities anymore. In other words, they are not allowed to live a life in dignity and worth of a human person. Therefore, different rights contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are violated, such as the right to life (article 3), the right of housing (article 25), the right to work (article 23), the right to access to public services (article 21), and the right to education (article 26). People hit by unusual and heavy storms only have one option which is to leave their country and become migrants who also have human rights unfortunately often violated. Despite the strong interconnection between climate change and human rights is blatant, at the international level we still have few norms to act against climate change and its effects. International community must put much more effort in finding concrete and immediate solutions to allow every human being to exercise their human rights.

What would you tell young women who would like to be human rights defenders and climate activists? What would you like them to know?

It will be hard. It will be frustrating. Unfortunately, sometimes the activism world, especially if related to climate change, can be sexist too. Personally, at different times in more than 10 years of activism I felt less than my male colleagues. I did not expect this and I was not prepared. It was sad to realise it and a couple of times I had the urge to give everything up. It may happen to you too, but please, don’t do it! There is nothing as rewarding as getting together and changing what is unfair and wrong! Making the difference is important for us personally and for future women who won’t go through the difficulties we went through!

A few words about the project

We The Women is a key project under the umbrella program Women4Climate powered by IRIS Sustainable Development. Specifically, We The Women is an interview series project, holding inspiring discussions with climate actional leaders and pioneers in the social and green entrepreneurship field. Women with different backgrounds, experiences, and achievements, share their insights, know-how, opinions, and advice with the public, inspiring more people -especially young entrepreneurs and women- toward a more sustainable future.

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