What started as a simple conversation has evolved into a lifelong quest for Shannon Walsh, an assistant professor of Political Science at UMD.
In 2004, Walsh was talking with a lawyer who offered her a lead. She had always been engaged in human rights issues, and interested in focusing on women. “This human rights lawyer was quite remarkable. She said, ‘If you’re interested in impunity, one of the most significant human rights issues today that few people are looking into is how cases of violence against women get ignored by the state.’"
Illustrating the lawyer’s suggestion were two Amnesty International reports that came out in 2005 and 2006, documenting widespread femicides in Guatemala with less than a 2% conviction rate for cases of killing women. “This was really shocking to me, from the perspective of wanting justice, but it wasn’t shocking to me from the perspective of living in Latin America and understanding how broken many of the judicial systems and the policing systems were.” Consider the lead pursued. Drysdale Walsh traveled across Central America and began researching cross-national comparisons of responsiveness to violence against women. "Many Latin American states lack an effective rule of law, leaving women with formal legal rights but without legal remedies."
Between 2007 and 2012, Walsh completed 18 months of fieldwork and conducted more than 200 interviews, gathering the most extensive set of data ever collected on the topic. Her book, Engendering State Institutions: State Response to Violence Against Women, is already getting attention in all the right places; several University presses have already invited Drysdale Walsh to submit a manuscript of her work.
This month, Walsh's efforts got a substantial boost when she was awarded the University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professorship for 2014 -2016. The McKnight Land-Grant Professorship is a prestigious award designed to enhance the careers of the most promising junior faculty in the University of Minnesota system. Among other things, recipients are given a grant to support research efforts for each of the two years.
Walsh says that the McKnight Land-Grant Professorship gives her the opportunity to share what she has learned. She’ll work with international organizations to contribute information that can be integrated into the work that they’re doing and attend meetings with influential groups, like the United Nations. “This allows me to continue networking with scholars and advocates, bridging the gap that so often exists between theory and practice," and advancing the meaningful conversation that began more than a decade ago.
For more information on Walsh and her work, visit her faculty website.
Story by Lori C. Melton