At the moment, since my main goal is to complete my doctoral studies in 2015, I am not a member of the core team. Instead, I try to support the CIES through my network and doctoral research. Previously, my position was more demanding of my time. I was responsible for conducting research, writing grants to international donor agencies and organising events on foreign policy issues.
You are also finishing your PhD on Turkish Private Sector Development in Northern Iraq. Why did you choose this topic?
While working at the Istanbul Policy Center (IPC) I had the privilege of being a part of a joint IPC-Atlantic Council Track II Initiative that brought together a high-level group of Iraqi and Turkish professionals to promote understanding and dialogue. It was during these activities that I saw how interconnected traditional security concerns, such as terrorism and border security, relate to socio-economic development, education and civil liberties in Iraq. It was thrilling to listen to private sector professionals express how they no longer subscribed to traditional approaches to security concerns and instead talked about opportunities to bridge the divide between Turkey and northern Iraq using non-military approaches. Based on my involvement in that Track II Initiative, I decided to begin my doctoral studies focusing on the impact of the Turkish private sector on the status of human security in Iraqi Kurdistan.
What do you want to do after your PhD?
My intention is to continue to focus on human security, whether in an academic or private sector capacity.
Before your PhD at the University of Warwick, you did a BA in International Studies and then an MA in International Peace and Conflict resolution at the American University in Washington, DC. Why did you then choose the British education system?
The program at the University of Warwick was more flexible for a working woman then the PhD programs in the U.S. Thankfully, the director of the centre where I was working at when I first started my doctoral studies supported my desire to undertake a PhD. Therefore, I was able to attend the first year modules without the fear of losing my job. Since passing my first year review and with the permission of my advisory team, I have been based in Istanbul, Turkey.
After your MA, you worked for the IPC located at Sabanci University in Istanbul. What did it entail?
Thanks to the leadership and vision of the founding director, Professor Ustun Erguder, and of IPC Board Member Professor Sabri Sayari, I had a diverse portfolio at the Istanbul Policy Center. My position entailed managing projects and activities for the Turkey-U.S. Public Policy Initiative (Co-Founder) and the Conflict Resolution Program; preparing and submitting proposals for funding to international and domestic donor organisations and conducting research and preparing reports on foreign policy issues. I also organised and led conferences and study groups on Turkey-U.S. relations, U.S. Foreign Policy, Peace and Conflict Resolution and developments in the Middle East.
You’ve also worked with USAID. What did it entail?
I worked with a consulting firm, AMEX, who supported the Office of Food for Peace. I coordinated and monitored 24 development portfolios and completed associated procedures; communicated with USAID Missions, UN, World Food Programme and NGO field offices to ensure food deliveries and efficient execution of programs; co-managed the in-house office training team to organise, develop and present material on sustainable development theories.
What would you recommend to a woman who would like to follow a similar career path?
I would recommend finding something that she truly feels passionate about. I have complemented my studies in human security by volunteering with the migrant and refugee communities. This has helped give a clearer picture of the impact my career path might have in supporting a human security approach to development and foreign policy.
How did you become interested in foreign policy?
For ten years, my parents recruited members of our community in Texas, many of who were part of the military community, to travel to northern Mexico to build cinderblock homes for economically destitute migrant workers who were living in shanty towns. I became interested in development and foreign policy when I heard stories from migrant workers who travelled from Central America and Southern Mexico to the Texas-Mexico border to work in factories that had sprung up over night because of the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. The local municipalities did not require American companies to develop the infrastructure of the areas surrounding their factories or provide access to basic services such as electricity or water and sanitation systems. Nor did the Mexican federal government enforce foreign companies to pay a minimum wage or provide healthcare benefits to their employees. Consideration for the environment was non-existent with instances of chemical spills in the water canals, where people bathed and washed their clothes. Within a few years, a considerable amount of the factories had closed and reopened in China, where even lower substandard wages and working conditions existed.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it that's still useful?
For my first paid position I spent the summer working with the U.S. Army Budgeting Office at Ft. Hood, Texas when I was sixteen years old. I have come to value the concept of human security, which encourages us to transform our thoughts about the terms 'job' and 'work'. Essentially, a job relates to financial compensation for duties performed, however; it fails to take into account all of the activities that fall outside the formal economy such as volunteering, unpaid domestic work, and creative artistic work. The concept of work encompasses our job and includes the activities we might engage in to live a fulfilling life.
What are the most and least rewarding aspects of your career so far?
The most rewarding aspect of my career is that I believe I am gaining the knowledge and tools to better understand how to overcome the human security challenges of today. I love being able to meet with interesting people who are doing great things to make the world a better place. The least rewarding aspect of my career is that it is hard to measure how much impact one actually has on addressing social injustices.
In your experience, what are the specific barriers and advantages women face because of their gender in your field of foreign policy and domestic politics?
I have had the opportunity to work in the foreign policy and development communities in Belgium, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Turkey and the U.S. Each country has its own respective challenges when it comes to barriers women face because of gender. However, it was the challenges that women face in the U.S. because of gender that struck me the most. While a high school student in Texas, I participated in an advocacy campaign to influence my local city council to support Title 9 funding for gender equity in city sports programs. I thought it was important that female sports programs received the same support, particularly, that they received an equal amount of public funding as male sports initiatives. I collected signatures in support of the campaign and spoke at city council meetings in favour of Title 9. I also worked as a campaign volunteer for a school board election candidate that reflected my beliefs and campaign concerns.
Even though challenges may still exist with regards to highlighting women’s perspectives, there are some amazing projects that aim to integrate women into the political and foreign policy spheres. While in high school I was selected to participate in Texas Girls State, an opportunity for young women to learn about the political process at the Texas State level. After graduating from high school, I was asked to return to Texas Girls State as a camp counsellor. My tasks included educating female students on the electoral and legislative processes found in Texas government. With regards to the foreign policy community, Foreign Policy Interrupted, is a fantastic initiative which highlights women’s perspectives and shares information on programs that women might be interested in learning more about.
What are the key skills that make you good at what you do?
I love providing opportunities for people to meet other individuals or institutions that might be beneficial for their professional journeys. There are a lot of amazing people doing awesome things, however, they might not be connected with the 'right' network. Similarly, there are a ton of cool opportunities, but if you are not in the 'right' network, you might not even be aware of them.
What is the toughest lesson you have learnt?
Not everyone within the same institution might perceive the work environment the same way. I grew up in a military family and community, which emphasises the concept of 'team'. During the summer after my freshmen year of college, I worked at a women’s support centre in San Francisco. The first week I started, I reorganised the supplies closet and received a scolding for touching things without asking. My biggest struggle is wait for a task to be assigned to me. I would much rather be proactive and create opportunities for myself or the institution I am working with.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you tackle it?
My biggest challenge was leaving my military community bubble, in Copperas Cove, Texas, where multiculturalism was celebrated and where most people had either lived or travelled abroad or within the United States. I decided to attend a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania instead of staying in Texas. It was the first time I was singled out because of my multicultural background and my thoughts about politics and International Relations. Several friends including professors even recommended I transfer colleges because I was not used to segregation or racism. My first year of college was by far the biggest challenge because it was an America I had heard of, but had never experienced until then. I tackled this challenge by doing what I knew best - volunteering. I recruited a group of students and professors to build homes in Mexico during our spring break. I also volunteered with a local elementary school and regularly spoke to different community groups and churches about the beauty of celebrating multiculturalism and the rewards of being engaged in civic involvement.
What achievements are you most proud of?
I do not necessarily feel proud of my achievements; rather I am thankful for the support my family and friends have given me. I am particularly grateful to my dad who took me on countless trips abroad and encouraged me to volunteer throughout Mexico, Central America, the Middle East and the United States to learn more about the challenges everyday people face.
Do you have a role model and if so who and why?
My dad, Bill Bache, is definitely my role model. He is an exquisite and honourable person who read through the entire encyclopedia in Junior High, participated in the civil rights movement when he was in high school and joined the U.S. Army at an early age. He has always searched for knowledge and advocated for social justice despite being at odds with his peers. One summer, I worked for Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica. During my dad’s visit, we toured through a public park, essentially a rainforest, and ended up veering off the designated path. My stress level increased once it started to pour and became overcast. After slipping numerous times, I looked up and saw my dad skipping along in front of me with a stick in his hand for balance. He called out "Come on, this is good training!". At that moment, I realised, I could either moan about being lost in the rainforest or I could get up and enjoy the adventure. I will be forever grateful for my dad’s positive influence and guidance.
Christina Bache Fidan | Research Fellow | Center for International and European Studies (CIES) Kadir Has University
15 years' experience
CV in brief
Find her online
Inspiring girls and young women to choose a career in foreign policy
Copyright © 2016, Women in Foreign Policy. All rights reserved.