PHRJ Fellow Miriam Zoll, co-founder of "Take Our Daughters to Work Day," on protection of orphans and women's economic rights

HIV/AIDS research examines links between women's economic rights and the protection of millions of orphans
April 20, 2005

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Twelve years ago, the Ms. Foundation for Women launched Take Our Daughters To Work Day to draw public attention to pay and promotion gaps between men and women in the U.S. workplace. This year one of the program's founders is working through MIT's Program on Human Rights and Justice to develop new strategies for lifting orphan households out of poverty by compensating female HIV/AIDS family and community caregivers for their unpaid labor.

Economic equity was an essential component of the original Take Our Daughters To Work Day, said Miriam Zoll, the founding co-producer of the program who is currently an MIT Human Rights Fellow. It is now a central point of debate among those concerned with alleviating poverty and with improving care and support for more than 12 million children orphaned and made vulnerable by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 

For the last twenty years, African women's volunteer efforts to cope with the crisis have been considered a substitute for formerly subsidized social service programs, said Zoll. Though there is a strong traditional of volunteerism in countries hardest hit byHIV/AIDS,, the growth of the disease has begun to eclipse the sustainability even of this donated time and support. As the number of adult deaths and orphans due to AIDS soar, caregivers' financial and emotional resources have been depleted. Poverty among orphan households is more severe than ever. There really is no choice now but to allocate some portion of donor aid to the household and community level where it can be used to create jobs specifically in the HIV/AIDS sector. 

Zoll said international donors, such as the Global Fund and DFID, are just beginning to experiment with the idea of compensating women for their formerly unpaid HIV/AIDS sector labor. In 2004, the Global Fund agreed to pay 10,000 women in Swaziland US$30 per month to care for orphans. This initiative marks the first time in the pandemic's 20 year history that caregivers will be paid directly by donors. 

Professor Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Director of MIT's Program on Human Rights and Justice, said Zoll's research focus points to the importance of integrating women's economic rights into HIV/AIDS prevention and poverty alleviation tactics in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions of the world contending with the pandemic. 

As an MIT Human Rights Fellow, Zoll joins Dr. Louise Druke and Dr. Gary Troeller, both senior executives with the Office for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 

The MIT Program on Human Rights and Justice (PHRJ) was established in 2001 to encourage research and teaching toward a better empirically grounded, culturally sensitive and ethically and politically responsible approach to human rights. A joint initiative of MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Center for International Studies, PHRJ provides a forum for discussion and collaboration among faculty and students, serves as a resource to the community, and creates opportunities for real-world experience through internships and applied research. Through such activities, PHRJ aims to demonstrate the relevance of a human rights framework not only to law and politics, but also to science, technology, business and society more broadly. 

Human Rights Research Fellows are outstanding academics and activists working at the intersection of human rights and other topics who wish to conduct in-depth research for a semester or year at MIT. Proposals relating to the global economy and science and technology are especially welcome and are accepted on a rolling basis. Three fellows are currently in residence; more information on this and other PHRJ programs is available at

Dr. Louise Druke is Visiting Professor at the New Bulgarian University, Sofia and a senior executive with UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) with more than 30 years of international human rights and refugee work. Since 1974 with Amnesty International and since 1977 with UNHCR, she has headed up offices/missions in Europe, South East Asia and Central Asia, Latin America, Africa and is currently involved in multilateral affairs and public policy in Bulgaria , focusing on refugee protection and human rights. Dr. Druke is researching Human Rights and Justice in the 20th and 21st Centuries in International Affairs and Refugee Policy with an Emphasis on Post-Communist Countries in Transition. 

Dr. Gary Troeller is a senior executive with the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees with over 30 years of experience in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America where he has been principally involved in diplomatic/multilateral affairs, focusing on humanitarian issues and human rights in practice as well as policy formulation. Prior to joining UNHCR he worked in journalism, banking and applied research in Brussels, Frankfurt and Geneva. While completing his Ph.D. at Cambridge University he was a Research Associate at Oxford University. Before joining UNHCR and concurrent with his work with the Refugee Agency he has held teaching appointments in international relations in US, Japanese and Korean universities and been a guest lecturer at over 50 research and policy institutes, universities, international conferences and business fora in 16 countries. Publications in several languages which he has authored, edited or contributed to, include books on the Middle East, energy policy, and international relations, as well numerous articles on current affairs in academic/policy journals and the media. At MIT his focus is on "Migration Politics, Refugees and International Relations in the Post Cold War Era." 
Miriam Zoll is an award-winning writer, and a researcher and strategic consultant for the United Nations and other global public policy institutions. From 2004-2005, Zoll was a lead researcher and analyst for an unprecedented USAID/UNICEF/UNAIDS/WFP-Futures Group initiative investigating AIDS orphan policies and programs in 17 sub-Saharan African countries. To view the country reports, see:

In 2003, Miriam Zoll was the Chief Global Researcher for "Women and HIV/AIDS: Confronting the Crisis," a Joint UN Agency Report (UNFPA/UNAIDS/UNIFEM) released at the 15th International AIDS Conference in Bangkok in July 2004. As an MIT Fellow in the Program on Human Rights and Justice, Zoll will continue to research how the prioritization of women's human rights-particularly in the areas of education, inheritance rights and compensation for unpaid labor-can improve AIDS orphan care and support at the household and community levels.

MIT Program on Human Rights and Justice 
Susan Frick 

The Center for International Studies (CIS) supports interna­tional research and education at MIT. It is the home of MIT’s Security Studies Program; the MIT International Science & Technology Initiative, its pioneering global education program; the Program on Emerging Technologies; and seminars and research on migration, South Asia politics, the Middle East, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, and East Asia. The Center has traditionally been aligned with the social sciences while also working with MIT’s premier science and engineering scholars. CIS produces research that creatively addresses global issues while helping to educate the next generation of global citizens.