Human Rights Watch – Executive Director, Women’s Rights.

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Executive Director–Women’s Rights Division
Location: Multiple Locations Considered
Application Deadline: November 16, 2020

Organization Overview
Human Rights Watch (HRW) is an international NGO that advances human rights worldwide. HRW is known for in-depth investigations, incisive and timely reporting, innovative and high-profile advocacy campaigns, and success in changing the human rights-related policies and practices of governments, international institutions and other influential entities. Our 500 staff based in more than 50 countries investigate wrongs, expose facts, offer solutions, and build pressure for those with power to respect rights. We collaborate closely with a diverse array of local and global partners and engage the public. HRW defends the freedoms and protections that promote dignity, equality, and justice.

Our mission is urgent. Women’s rights movements are increasingly vocal and connected globally but often face powerful and rising resistance to gender equality and justice. Governments are failing to meet their obligations on health, gender-based violence, climate change, a living wage, food, water, housing and education. We must respond to the gendered impacts of conflict, crisis and displacement, rising economic inequality coupled with the absence of safety nets, and entrenched legal and social discrimination against women and girls. The Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and technological advances present extraordinary risks and challenges for women’s rights and gender justice as well as some new opportunities.

Credibility, diversity, and partnerships are critical to our ability to meet these challenges and deliver impact. HRW’s guiding principles include independence; ethical, accurate and fair fact-finding; a strong focus on impact; and strong and respectful partnerships. Our core internal values include transparency; diversity, equity and inclusion; learning and trust; safety and resilience; and accountability.

The Women’s Rights Division (WRD), founded in 1990, leads HRW’s work on women’s rights. WRD works to end the human rights violations contributing most to the inequity women and girls continue to face in every country in the world. Our approach is deeply intersectional: we explicitly and intentionally look at how intersecting inequalities—based on gender, race, ethnicity, caste, nationality, Indigenous status, migration status, sexual orientation and gender identity, ability, age, and other factors—contribute to marginalization and human rights violations. We stand in solidarity with other feminist and social justice groups around the world often working in partnership with them to realize key common goals including: reproductive, economic and climate justice; economic, social and cultural rights; racial justice and reparations; LGBT rights; and workers’ rights.

WRD’s work is guided by three pillars: the right to live free from violence; economic rights; and the right to health, with a strong focus on reproductive justice. At present, WRD has integrated work on the gendered impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across these pillars. Our other main bodies of work include: investigating threats to reproductive and sexual health and rights; tackling emerging threats to women’s rights related to climate change and technology; combating pushback on gender equality; seizing unique opportunities for systemic change toward ending male guardianship laws in the Middle East and North Africa region and toward securing ratification of the 2019 ILO Violence and Harassment convention.

WRD is a diverse team of 12 deeply experienced staff members of seven nationalities with backgrounds including academia, law, and journalism. They document abuses in Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, and North America. Staff members are based in nine locations in seven countries, in time zones spanning 11 hours. Most work in settings where they are the sole WRD staff member, several work from home, and some live and work in contexts with significant security and communication challenges.

Position Overview and Responsibilities

Human Rights Watch is seeking an outstanding women’s rights leader to direct its Women’s Rights Division, one of its eight thematic research programs. The WRD Director reports to the Program Office and leads a WRD management team. The position will preferably be based in a major HRW office, but other locations will be considered.

The position involves three main areas of responsibility: 1) lead HRW’s work on women’s rights; 2) manage a thriving team within the Women’s Rights Division; and 3) play a key role in raising funds to support WRD’s work.

1) Lead HRW’s work on women’s rights

The WRD director is responsible for leading and motivating WRD’s staff to conduct strategic, ethical, and impactful research, produce high-quality reports, innovative and targeted communications, and advocacy with governments, policy-makers and the public, to advance the rights of women and girls around the world by generating pressure on governments, non-state actors such as business, and international institutions to curb rights violations. The WRD director will provide vision, leadership, and support to foster an inclusive, equitable, productive, resilient, and team-oriented culture within the division and across the organization.

a) Provide the leadership and strategic vision for the Women’s Rights Division.
b) Support WRD to foster equitable, strong, and effective partnerships, including with grassroots organizations, organizations led by people directly affected by human rights abuses, and with local and international civil society groups, and lead HRW’s collaboration with feminist and women’s rights movements globally.
c) In collaboration with relevant internal and external partners, oversee and develop research, advocacy, and communications plans on priority women’s human rights issues globally. Ensure that plans include clear goals, strategies, and benchmarks, that research is conducted safely, rigorously, and ethically, and that WRD routinely engages in monitoring and evaluation and learning, and that WRD work aligns with the broader strategic plan of the organization.
d) Provide direction and oversight to the production of reports and other research and advocacy materials—written and multimedia–and ensure these materials generate domestic and international pressure to curb human rights violations. Ensure that all materials adhere to the organization’s and human rights standards and are appropriately vetted, including reviewing and editing written materials from within the division and those written by other parts of the organization.
e) Generate public awareness and build pressure to support respect for women’s rights, particularly recommendations emanating from HRW research through engaging with national and international media, and conducting advocacy with high-level officials from governments, the UN, donors, and other relevant international and regional organizations.
f) Support an intersectional gender lens in the design and implementation of all work across HRW, including research methodologies, advocacy initiatives, media work, and partnerships.

2) Manage a thriving team within the Women’s Rights Division

The director is responsible for day to day management and supervision of WRD’s staff, including: overseeing the work of multiple direct reports; setting priorities; representing the division’s work internally and externally; ensuring security of staff, partners, and information; managing risk; mentoring and supporting staff and ensuring alignment with HRW values.

The director must demonstrate ability and commitment to: foster the safety and resilience of staff; promote diversity, equity and inclusion; build consensus with staff around confronting key challenges and research and advocacy approaches; lead the team in producing strategic research and advocacy that is timely and impactful; and ensure the highest research standards in a culture of learning, trust, teamwork, and collaboration.

a) In collaboration with Program Office and Operations Department, lead overall management of WRD staff and operations, across multiple countries and time zones.
b) Lead, motivate, manage, and mentor team members. Communicate clear expectations, set performance objectives, provide regular and timely constructive feedback, ensure balanced workload, build a strong sense of team, and provide guidance and opportunities for professional growth.
c) Promote an inclusive and positive work environment including by soliciting diverse points of views, prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion and stress and resilience efforts, and proactively addressing bias, discrimination, and microaggressions.
d) Monitor well-being of WRD staff as it pertains to stress and resilience and self-care and work collaboratively with WRD staff in addressing the challenges and opportunities they face in their work and the environments where they live.
e) Ensure the safety and resilience of staff, information security, and security of interlocutors and partners in their work with HRW. Build a culture valuing and enabling security, trust, and transparency, and ensure that staff receive appropriate training in security policies and procedures, and that these policies and procedures are implemented effectively.
f) Represent the women’s rights division within the program department and to senior management. Work collaboratively with all departments and divisions to ensure operational effectiveness, efficiency, and impact.

3) Play a key role in raising funds to support WRD’s work

The WRD director has primary responsibility for raising the funds needed to support the work of the division. In this role, the WRD director will have support from HRW’s development team.

a) Collaborate with the Development Department on fundraising, playing a lead role in raising the funds needed for WRD’s work. Provide information, proposals and draft reports to donors in a timely manner, build relationships with individual and institutional donors, promote the work of HRW as a whole, and solicit and follow up with potential and existing donors to achieve WRD fundraising goals.
b) Manage budget setting, expenditure, and spending priorities, in co-operation with the Finance Department, and monitor the WRD budget and ensure that resources are allocated to maximize impact.

Perform other responsibilities as required.

Candidate Profile

Education and Experience: A graduate degree or equivalent work experience in women’s rights, law, journalism, social sciences, international affairs, or a related field is required. A minimum of ten years of relevant work experience is required, with at least five years in a management role.

Able to travel widely, including internationally, an estimated 30 percent of the time (once Covid-19 related restrictions and precautions permit). If not based in New York, consistent additional travel to New York will be required.

Fluency in English is required; fluency in other languages is highly valued.

We understand that this moment, during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the school year begins in many parts of the world, is a uniquely difficult time to recruit a new senior staff member. People with caregiving responsibilities are under particular strain and it may be difficult for many people who would be excellent candidates for this job to go through a recruitment process and begin a new position at this time.

We aim to have a successful search despite these challenges, by being flexible and supportive in how the new director comes onboard. We are open to discussing gradual on-boarding, flexibility regarding the director’s location, and other options. Human Rights Watch has made it a priority during the pandemic to support our team, especially those with caregiving responsibilities.

Required Qualifications / Skills

1) A strategic feminist changemaker

The WRD director should be a committed feminist deeply grounded in an intersectional and global approach to women’s rights, with a commitment to centering people most affected by human rights violations. The director should be a persuasive advocate in the field of international human rights, and have an impressive track record of driving change, a deep commitment to coalition building and equitable partnerships, and a strategic vision for HRW’s contribution to the global feminist movement.

a) Optimistic, compassionate, energetic, collaborative, and deeply motivated.
b) Deep knowledge of, and personal commitment to, women’s rights.
c) Expertise in law, policy and research related to women’s rights, as well as with human rights research methodologies, advocacy strategies, and monitoring, evaluation, and learning.
d) Ability to identify critical human rights challenges and opportunities and formulate and deliver strategies for change.
e) Excellent political judgment, and ability to identify trends and develop partnerships.
f) Strong interpersonal skills to work collaboratively within HRW and with partners, advocacy targets and media.
g) Highly effective oral and written communication skills, and the ability to advocate for and explain complex issues and positions to a wide variety of audiences.
h) Strong and consistent editor of a range of written work products, with ability to edit for factual and legal accuracy, to assist with gender analysis in otherwise completed pieces, for effective communication in relation to intended audience, for structural and grammatical edits, and to adhere to word limit guidelines.
i) Track record of conducting media interviews and cultivating relationships with journalists.
j) Track record of measurable success executing complex projects, managing budgets, implementing operational change, conducting monitoring and evaluation, and ensuring high-quality deliverables.
k) As a senior manager in a global institution that collaborates online and across time zones, the ability to respond appropriately and consistently to email requests and dialogue across the organization and to external parties.

2) A feminist manager

The WRD director should be a skilled, detail-oriented, compassionate, and inspiring manager.

a) Deep management experience and skills, including supervising and mentoring a diverse team of talented professionals in multiple global locations on a diverse portfolio.
b) Experience in modeling feminist purpose and principles in their management, including by creating opportunities for growth throughout a team.
c) Demonstrated experience in championing diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as combating stress and building resilience among staff.

3) A skillful fundraiser

Be a successful fundraising on a diverse portfolio of women’s rights work. Prior experience of this would be very helpful, but we are ready to help the right candidate develop fundraising skills, and we offer extensive support on fundraising through our excellent development team.

Salary and Benefits: HRW seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and benefits. HRW offers a relocation assistance package and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required; people of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.

How to Apply: Please apply immediately or by November 16, 2020 by visiting our online job portal at No calls or email inquiries, please. Only complete applications will be reviewed and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.




Human Rights Watch

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