Between 2009 and 2011, advocates nationwide encountered 3,000 cases of forced marriage in the United States, revealing the magnitude of the issue right in our own backyard. In response, the Tahirih Justice Center galvanized a coordinated national response to the problem by launching the Forced Marriage Initiative with the goals of better understanding the scope and severity of forced marriage in the United States; raising awareness about the problem; encouraging and empowering individuals facing or fleeing forced marriages to seek help; and building a network of service providers, community advocates, and government agencies with the necessary tools and expertise to help individuals at risk. Since then, Tahirih’s team to stop forced marriage has advocated to pass legislation, develop regulations, and transform policies state by state. One member of this team of advocates is Public Policy Associate, Alex Goyette.
Prior to joining Tahirih, Alex had always been interested in human migration, specifically, how moving from one place to another can dramatically change the rights afforded to a person. He worked as a pediatric medical interpreter for Bayside Pediatrics in Annapolis and interned for the International Rescue Committee, a refugee resettlement agency in Baltimore. From there, Alex undertook graduate school to further study migration issues. It was there that he was inspired to work in policy advocacy.
“A Tahirih attorney came to one of my classes as a guest speaker and spoke compellingly about Tahirih’s work on gender-based violence in the context of migration, emphasizing the importance of client-centered services and advocacy.”
Given that the work aligned with his interests, Alex applied for an opening with Tahirih’s Forced Marriage Initiative and has been part of the Tahirih family, first as an intern and then as a full-time employee, since 2017!
“I am inspired by Tahirih’s vision of a world in which men and women work as equals for the benefit of humanity, and its commitment to serving the needs of those at the intersections of multiple forms of vulnerability.”
As Public Policy Associate, Alex’s role touches on a variety of aspects of policy making, from lobbying for new state laws to educating the public and other advocates about the issues on which Tahirih works.
“On any given day, I may spend time providing resources or strategic guidance to a survivor-advocate pushing to end child marriage in her state; pivot to writing a report about how a constellation of immigration policies come together to affect our clients’ lives; then jump on a call to coordinate a proposal for our staff to train fellow advocates at a national conference. I love the variety of opportunities that I’m offered in my role here.”
Alex’s passion for advocacy has only fortified since working at Tahirih and though there are many reasons why, it is for one reason especially – his deep admiration for the clients.
“I am constantly humbled and inspired by the women who stand up to share their stories for the sake of change, whether that’s by testifying in front of lawmakers or by sending us their stories for inclusion in a report or media advocacy. Their courage and fortitude never ceases to amaze me.”
With a role heavily based in legal reforms, Alex encounters many challenges, especially when it involves dealing with issues of gender or immigration.
“Tahirih’s clients are faced with a seemingly endless array of policies threatening their lives and dignity; it can sometimes feel like every “win” is met with ten new challenges.”
But, at Tahirih, Alex has the privilege of working alongside his incredible teammates and our partners in the anti-violence movement that motivate him to work ten times harder.
“I’ve seen [my colleagues] grit their teeth and go back to the trenches for every new fight. It gives me hope to see how many advocates are out there, working every day for a world where people can live in safety and with dignity, regardless of who they are or where they come from.”
Alex is aware of the flawed immigration system that continues to leave many victims of violence trapped and without safe options. Working on the local and state levels allows Alex to push for changes to these systemic factors. And, his part in policy advocacy creates the sustainable networks for Tahirih that continue to make an impact in the fight for equality and ending violence against women.
“Tahirih works at every level to fight for equality and to end gender-based violence, from working alongside individual clients to navigate complex and sometimes hostile systems, to advocating in Congress to make those systems less hostile in the first place. More importantly, Tahirih knows that collective action makes real change – partnering with clients, pro-bono professionals, donors, and fellow advocates to leverage our collective strength – that is how we will win the fight for equality and put an end to gender-based violence.”