July Featured Advocate – Janine Kossen
By Aubrey Peterson on Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
As the Director of Public Policy at Advocates for Youth, Janine Kossen (Mauritania, 2003-05) is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) with a lot of experience advocating for sexual and reproductive health policies, ranging from female genital cutting to family planning practices.
“I would never have been where I am today without the Peace Corps where I saw first-hand how restrictive national and international policies and funding requirements can actually lead to further public health challenges, such as child marriage and early (and poorly-spaced) pregnancies, as well as pervasive gender inequality, poverty, and malnutrition. These experiences helped influence and ground my current policy work and remind me why I continue to do what I do.”
While accustomed to fighting for the rights of young women and girls facing these issues around the world, Janine never thought she would find herself needing to defend the rights of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) as well.
“Just last year, Congress approved a change in policy for women serving in the military, providing for abortion coverage in the cases of rape and incest (previously, only women service members whose lives were endangered by carrying a pregnancy to term received coverage for abortion). Women in the Peace Corps now stand alone among citizens serving our nation overseas who are denied this medical coverage,” Janine said.
As a result, Janine is hard at work to help promote the Peace Corps Equity Act (S. 813), which would provide PCVs with access to more comprehensive health care and support services. This is particularly pertinent considering, as Janine noted, more than 1,000 volunteers have been victims of sexual assault throughout the past decade.
While Janine recognizes that the brave survival stories of other advocates have led to better safety measures for PCVs in recent years, she also knows that there will always be a certain level of risk for our volunteers abroad. Thus, she continues to support policy change.
“By standing together as a Peace Corps community united in solidarity —men and women, PCVs and RPCVs, across all regions and countries, and spanning all generations—we can right this wrong,” Janine said.
When not fiercely fighting global injustices, Janine serves as an international human rights attorney, world traveler, and amateur photographer. We thank her for her passion to advocacy and protecting the rights of women worldwide!
If you would like to join Janine in supporting the Peace Corps Equity Act, please sign this statement of support.