Staff

Diya Nijhowne

Director, Research

Diya Nijhowne oversees management of all the Coalition’s research operations and program implementation. She has over a decade of experience working on children’s rights and protection issues, including in emergency contexts. Diya served as a Child Protection Worker in Canada investigating child abuse allegations. As a Program Officer with Global Rights, an international non-governmental organization, she built the capacity of local organizations to protect human rights, designing and implementing programming for women and minorities in Afghanistan and Nepal. In 2008, following the post-election violence in Kenya, she served as a Child Protection Officer with UNICEF, developing protection strategies for internally displaced children. In 2011, she held a similar position with UNHCR in Ethiopia, managing a camp for Somali refugees and developing registration and tracing procedures for unaccompanied children. Diya also worked at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as a Children’s Rights Consultant, and developed advocacy strategies to promote the women, peace, and security agenda within the UN. Diya has a Master of Social Work degree and a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Toronto.

Contact information:

Phone: 1.212.377.9413 
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org

Cristal Downing

Program Officer

Cristal Downing coordinates the Higher Education Working Group on principles of state responsibility to protect higher education from attack and is a researcher for Education under Attack 2018. Prior to joining GCPEA, Cristal spent almost three years as Analyst in the Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration Program at the International Organisation for Migration in Bogotá, Colombia. She has also worked with local civil society organisations in both the US and abroad, focusing on education and development in fragile contexts. Cristal has published academic articles and made conference presentations on IDP education, child recruitment, and other peacebuilding topics. She has a BA in Hispanic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in Latin American Studies from New York University, and an MSc in Political Science from the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia). 

Contact information:

Phone: 1.212.377.7470 
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org

Amy Kapit

Education Under Attack Program Officer

Amy Kapit is the lead researcher and writer for Education Under Attack 2018, a global report that will track violent attacks on education in countries impacted by armed conflict and insecurity from 2013-2017. Amy has spent close to a decade working on issues related to education and child protection in areas of armed conflict. Most recently, she worked as the Research Director of a New York University project studying the impact of a community-based education program being implemented by two NGOs in more than 200 villages in six provinces of Afghanistan. She received a PhD in International Education from New York University’s Steinhardt School in 2016. Her doctoral research examined linkages between global advocacy on the protection of education and the humanitarian community’s efforts to address violence, harassment, and threats against Palestinian students, teachers, and schools. Previously, she has also consulted on education in emergencies projects including for the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, USAID, NORAD, Education Above All, and the Scholars at Risk Network.

Contact information:

Phone: 1.212.216.1810
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org

Gisela Schmidt-Martin

Coordinator, Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict

Gisela Schmidt-Martin coordinates civil society mobilization and advocacy for the adoption and implementation of the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict at the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack.  She previously served for two years as Attaché for Humanitarian Affairs, Migration and Health at the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the UN in Geneva. Gisela also spent one year working at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip, where she was engaged in research, reporting and advocacy on issues relating to accountability and access to justice. Prior to this, Gisela has worked in refugee protection with UNHCR Ireland and victim support with the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials. Gisela holds an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the National University of Ireland, Galway, as well as a degree in European Integration Studies from University College Cork, Ireland.

Contact information:

Phone: +41 (0)22 919 6210 
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org

Christopher Sfetsios

Administration Officer

Chris Sfetsios provides operational and programmatic support to GCPEA, managing day to day coalition activities. He received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the American College of Thessaloniki in Greece, and is working toward a master’s in International Security Policy and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Prior to joining GCPEA, Chris held positions with several organizations working in international peacebuilding and human rights, including Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, WITNESS, UNDP, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and the United States Institute of Peace. 

Contact information:

Phone: 1.212.377.9446
Email: gcpea@protectingeducation.org