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Do not underestimate the influence you can have at the local level!

00:00 / 37:32

A conversation with
Lydia Malmedie

Also available in

Laura María Calderón Cuevas

Véronique Lerch

Brua |



The guest of our 12th episode is Lydia Malmedie, a graduate of the European Master in Human Rights and Democratisation who currently works as Deputy head of the LGBTI Unit at the Berlin State Ministry for Justice, Diversity and Anti-discrimination.


Sub-national level is getting more and more important with several networks of cities and public authorities working on different human rights issues. Lydia talks about the leverage that one can have at the local level. “I can see the change I am part of when I walk the streets of Berlin.”

It feels quite empowering for people to know that they can change the place where they live. “I would like to see people engage more where they live and connect with their neighbours.”


Public administration needs to reflect its constituents and therefore need diverse expertise that people coming from all walks of life can bring. Her advice to human rights graduates interested in working for a local authority:


  • Do not underestimate the influence you can have at the local level! Even though states are the ones signing the human rights conventions, the implementation happens elsewhere.

  • Persistence, patience and a high level of tolerance to frustration are necessary.

  • Get some insider knowledge and familiarise yourself with the structures and processes. It takes time to understand the informal rules, which are often the most important rules.

  • Use the knowledge of how governments work. Through working for a local authority, human rights practitioners will gain very valuable knowledge that can be used at other levels.


Lydia was also the President of the EMAlumni Association for a few years and talks briefly about that experience and the importance of networking. Networking is often misunderstood; it is not about getting the job because of the network but about hearing about the job through the network.


Have a look at the campaign on lesbian visibility that Lydia worked on: Lesbische* Sichtbarkeit -

The book mentioned in the discussion from another human rights graduate on human rights at the local level: Constitution Street from Jemma Neville


Lydia has a small magnet on the lamp of her desk, which says ‘enduring freedom’ (‘Freiheit aushalten’ in German).

It captures for her different aspects of freedom: both the fact that freedom is endangered in many places and it can be overwhelming but also the fact that some of us have a lot of freedom, a freedom to make many different choices and that can be overwhelming too.

Therefore, the magnet reminds her of her privilege and the importance to keep defending freedom.


I wanted to be that person in a particular key position to where

I can make a change.  Working at the local level,

I actually see the change that I am part of.

Dr. Lydia Malmedie (she/her)


Dr. Lydia Malmedie (she/her) entered the public administration in 2018 and currently works as deputy head of the LGBTI Unit at the Berlin State Ministry for Justice, Diversity and Anti-discrimination. Her role involves providing expertise to the political level, project funding as well as campaigns on topics such as lesbian* visibility.

Lydia completed the EMA programme in 2007/2008 and spent her second semester at the University of Utrecht. Her M.A. dissertation tackles the role of the private sector in promoting of Human Rights for LGBTI persons. Following graduation in 2008 Lydia worked as Education Officer at Stonewall UK, a human rights organization for LGBT equality, and at a foster care agency in London, UK. As a freelance diversity consultant Lydia also advised different companies and organizations. Lydia completed her doctoral dissertation at the University of Potsdam, Germany, on "Translating and Organizing a Wicked Problem - the EU Promoting Human Rights for LGBTI in Uganda" last year and has published on EU anti-discrimination policies, institutional change as well as the topic of globalization in political essays. Main areas of her research and teaching are topics of gender, LGBTI, human rights, institutional change.

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