The Rue W. Ziegler Fellowship awarded me the opportunity to travel to The Hague this fall to attend a child protection conference. The 15th Annual International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) European Regional Conference brought together researchers, academics, practitioners, and experts in the field of child rights from around the globe to discuss the most pressing issues facing children today.
My capstone topic is centered on innovative approaches to preventing the recruitment of child soldiers in conflict zones. The subjects covered in this conference touched on all aspects of child rights from access to health and education, domestic abuse, and sexual and gender-based violence. The talks I attended illuminated the growing concern young people face in an increasingly digitalized and globalized world where gaining access to vulnerable groups of children is easier than ever. I was particularly interested in the role that technology plays in child abuse as my research focuses on harnessing technology to protect children. Several of the discussants remarked on the paradoxical nature of technology as it relates to child protection and proffered solutions for effective applications.
Not only did this conference allow me to view my research from new perspectives, it afforded me the opportunity to network with other leaders in this field. I received valuable insight and advice from social workers and human rights activists about my applied project. They brought up interested and insightful points that I would not have otherwise considered.
It was also a pleasure to explore The Hague, a city home to the International Criminal Court, the Peace Palace, and dozens of other human rights institutions. It was inspiring to walk around the streets and see buildings that I had learned about in my international law class last year. I highly encourage MAIS students to travel abroad to better understand the real-world application of the theories that are taught in the classroom.
It was an honor to represent USF and MAIS on this trip and I am so grateful for the experiences that this fellowship afforded!