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Dr Orly Maya Stern is a researcher, consultant and human rights lawyer from South Africa. Her focus is on ‘women in war’. Orly has an expertise in international law, gender, human rights and security, in countries affected by conflict and instability. Over the past fifteen years Orly has worked and researched in countries including Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, Jordan, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa.


Orly has consulted for various international organizations, governments, research institutions and non-governmental organizations, and has published extensively in her field. Orly’s last book, ‘Gender, Conflict and International Humanitarian Law: A Critique of the Principle of Distinction’, was awarded the International Committee of the Red Cross’ inaugural prize for best published work on international humanitarian law in Africa. 



Research + Writing

Orly conducts rigorous, in-depth field research in some of the world’s most embattled environments. She has led research projects and designed methodologies and research tools for various humanitarian organisations, research institutions and NGOs. She has published extensively – from books, articles, reports, media pieces and desk reviews.


Orly works as a consultant to humanitarian organisations, NGOs and other development entities. This work includes everything from advisory work, to the development of strategies and standard operating procedures for programmes, to evaluations and assessments, to the writing of policy documents and guidelines.

Training + Facilitation

Much of Orly’s work involves conducting training for teams in the field, on topics such as human rights law, protection and sexual and gender-based violence. She has extensive experience designing trainings for, and training, government employees and police, as well as civil society actors, in a range of countries. She also runs workshops and facilitates discussions and strategy sessions.


Orly’s expertise spans international law (in particular international humanitarian law and international human rights law), armed conflict, gender and gender-based violence, human rights, and access to justice and security.

Thematic areas include the following:

  • Armed conflict
  • Gender and SGBV (sexual and gender based violence)
  • Violent extremism
  • Sexual exploitation and abuse
  • Access to justice / rule of law
  • Security sector reform (police reform, disarmament demobilization and reintegration)
  • Human rights and international human rights law
  • International humanitarian law
  • Qualitative research


  • Member of Editorial Board of International Review of the Red Cross, 2022
  • Visiting Fellow of Practice – Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University, 2020
  • Senior Fellow – Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, 2017
  • PhD – London School of Economics and Political Science (international humanitarian law), 2016
  • LL.M – Harvard Law School (international human rights law), 2008
  • LL.B – University of Cape Town (law), 2004
  • B.A – University of Cape Town (psychology), 2002


  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
  • World Bank
  • UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)
  • UK Department for International Development (DFID)
  • UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
  • UK Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF)
  • European Union
  • Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA)
  • World Economic Forum
  • Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Georgetown University
  • International Rescue Committee
  • American Refugee Committee
  • Diakonia
  • Oxfam
  • American Bar Association
  • Social Development Direct
  • Adam Smith International
  • Small Arms Survey – Human Security Baseline Assessment
  • Institute for Security Studies
  • Institute for Justice and Reconciliation
  • Media Legal Defense Initiative
  • Medica Mondiale
  • Nonviolent Peaceforce
  • Proximity
  • IsraAid
  • Justice Studio
  • Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone
  • Sonke Gender Justice Network
  • Treatment Action Campaign
  • Safety and Violence Initiative, University of Cape Town
  • The Development Initiative

South Africa/ WhatsApp: +27 72 580 8400

Skype: orlymaya2000