The following post was written by Jack Fornasiero, Meridian’s Executive Office and Communications Fellow.
Each year, Meridian engages international visitors through exchange and leadership programs that strive to uplift the global LGBTQ+ community, in addition to our work ensuring the U.S. foreign service represents Americans abroad through diplomacy, cultural exchange, and informed leadership. During Pride Month and beyond, Meridian is proud to stand by our LGBTQ+ staff at Meridian, the U.S. Department of State, our community-based members, corporate partners, and those in the foreign service.
Meridian’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion is exemplified through programming like the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), allowing emerging leaders to cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts that reflect professional interests and support the U.S. foreign policy goals.
Liana Ester Meirom Asif participated in the IVLP, “Human and Civil Rights for Marginalized Communities.” At the time, Asif was the International Funds and Resource Development Coordinator for IGY, Israel LGBTQ+ Youth. She subsequentially took on the role of Vice President, Resource Development and External Relations for IGY. The IGY program has established two young adult groups—one for LCBTQ+ young people from the Haredi community and the other for LCBTQ+ Arab young people in East Jerusalem. Asif is inspired by visiting the Creative Visions Human Development Institute in Iowa through IVLP. She reached out to rabbis and other Jewish community leaders in Israel to promote inclusivity of LGBTQ+ youth. Asif was eventually successful in developing a conference that brought together educators, social workers, and professionals to expand greater LGBTQ+ understanding of the Jewish faith.
Aradhiya Khan participated in an IVLP project for a Pakistan-based group focused on Young Influencers. Her work with the transgender community in Pakistan demonstrates the transfer of inclusivity ideals to areas of the globe that otherwise are still fighting a long battle for openness and acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community. At the time, she worked with the Akhuwat Foundation promoting the social and economic inclusion of the transgender community. Khan also had pursued legislation on a transgender protection bill in the Sindh Provincial Assembly.
This year, the U.S. Department of State also awarded Jessica Agila the IVLP Impact Award for her outstanding work on the “LGBTI Pedagogical Path.” The project is an exercise of reflection on the socio-educational piece of the LGBTQ+ movement based on pedagogical practices and strategies used in lobbying, policy formulation, grassroots campaigns, or in the media. It aims at achieving this by consolidating social organizations, citizens, states, and companies to promote and protect the enjoyment and full realization of all people of all human rights.
Meridian will continue to advance these critical objectives through its diverse programs like IVLP and looks forward to seeing many LGBTQ+ individuals and allies pass through its doors to contribute to future diplomatic work and cultural exchange.