Social Work Graduate Student Addresses Conference at The Hague

Human Trafficking, Drug War Among Topics in April 28 Presentation

Melissa I. M. Torres, a doctoral candidate in the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW), is readying a presentation she’ll deliver at The Hague on April 28. The report to the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF) conference will address human trafficking and the war against drugs. She will co-present with a colleague from the WILPF-Mexico.   

“We will be presenting on the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and how the current drug war has increased risks for exploitation and human rights violations,” she said. “We will also share our trans-national project proposal for working with vulnerable migrant communities in conflict.”

At the college, Torres’ research focuses on the risks and security of mobile Latino communities in the Americas, which include immigrant and migrant communities as well as refugees, displaced persons and trafficking victims.  Her investigations pay special attention to exploitation and trafficking issues.

Torres is active with the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, the oldest women’s peace organization in the world. She is the International Board Representative for the U.S. section of the WILPF, as well as the organization’s United Nation’s Practicum Faculty and Delegate to the Americas.

“I communicate between our U.S. section and our international secretariat, as well as other international and multilateral organizations, regarding the peace and social justice issues we are facing, reviewing and addressing,” she said.

Recently she addressed the pre-session of the U.N. Universal Periodic Review, which examines the human rights records of all U.N. member states.  Torres testified on issues such as food contamination and the human right to health, labor rights, sexual and reproductive rights, the rights of undocumented migrants, arms trade and women’s human rights protection.

She credits faculty mentoring for preparing her for work on international policy. Among the GCSW faculty who imparted advice and insight is Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams, who also is presenting at the conference. 

“The research training I’ve received at the GCSW is definitely Tier One training,” she said. “I have colleagues in other programs who do not have access to the training and opportunities I’ve had.  I feel prepared to continue in my research agenda post-graduation.”