Khutso Segooa’s Women and Public Policy Fellowship at Rockefeller College in Albany

By Khutso Segooa

Over, the Spring Semester (January 2023 – June 2023) I was a Women and Public Policy Fellow with the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at Rockefeller College in Albany. The fellowship is like an incubator, it serves as a personal and professional springboard to become a more effective advocate for women, children, families, the socially disadvantaged and people of color. During the fellowship I completed three courses: Topics on Women’s Leadership, The New York State Public Policy Process and, Advocacy for Social Change. I was also placed at an Executive Agency, The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (NYS OPDV) under the Bureau of Public Safety.Two women posing for a picture  Description automatically generated

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Women’s Leadership with Professor Martha Asselin is a course that delves into leadership theories, effectiveness and developing plans to improve our own leadership capacity. The New York State Public Policy Process with Professor Christine Rutigliano is a class that offered a practical understanding of New York State government and the public policy process. I analyzed the different roles that the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches, the State budget process, the interest groups, the media, advocacy, and media have in the development or implantation of public policy. We also had guest speakers (e.g., ex Ways and Means committee members etc.) who provided real-world illustration of how these pieces fit together. 

Finally, in my Advocacy for Social Change lectures with Professor Dina Refki, I deepened my theoretical and applied dimension of nonprofit advocacy, and the role that nonprofit advocacy organizations play in democratic governance. Through this course I also strengthened my knowledge and skills of influencing the enactment; implementating responsive public policy as nonprofit actors; I analyzed social issues and used public policy analysis techniques to identify policy solutions; planned advocacy campaigns; used a range of tactics and strategies like lobbying and learned how to evaluate public policy campaigns. What is more is that throughout the semester I worked on the Model Policy for Domestic Violence and Gender Parity in New York State as main policies of focus for my projects in these courses. 

My Placement:
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At NYS OPDV, I was tasked with researching potential legislative or policy remedies, identifying training and technical assistance needs for various stakeholders, and how to broadly improve systems responses to those impacted by gender-based violence to make them more survivor-centered, culturally responsive, and trauma informed. I also participated in OPDV’s SAVES program that raises awareness of protections available for survivors and helps make child support services more accessible to survivors. I learned a very important skill of mapping, that identify’s problem drivers in the system, that make accessing child support services, challenging. I also had the privilege of meeting both Governor Kathy Hochul and Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado. I met Governor Hochul for the Women’s History Month Reception at the Governor’s mansion. Then later in the semester LG Delgado visited our office, and took an active role in ending Gender Based Violence (GBV) in all its forms. It was inspiring to meet the first female governor and first black LG of NYS. Mostly it was reassuring to see how very committed they are to ending GBV. 

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GBV is an urgent crisis. According to the UN, 1 in 4 women have been subjected to intimate partner violence (641 million) at least once in their lifetime. Although there are some progressive laws on GBV, there is still a significant gap in implementation. There is still a very present patriarchal culture in the governmental institutions that are tasked to implement these laws. My experience with OPDV and deeper understanding of how GBV is essentially about coercive control, has further highlighted how subtle and intricate the issues around Domestic Violence really are. It has opened my eyes to how important and necessary the work that OPDV does, and I has given a newfound respect for change makers in the public policy space, like my supervisors Kelli Owens, Jara Traina, Shannon Cantiello and colleagues who work tirelessly daily, to navigate the public policy mine field, both persistently and with GREAT patience.Flags in a building with a stone wall  Description automatically generated

Truly GBV is ultimately a human rights issue and an urgent crisis, it should be a matter that concerns all of us, men, women, and children. In the words of President John F Kennedy, “We have the power to make the best generation of mankind in the history of the world – or to make it the last”, and that begins with showing gender parity, but firstly this means protecting women, regulating, and changing systems that continuously leave us burdened and vulnerable. No woman or girl should be left behind.  
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