Montville Woman Dedicated to Stopping Human Trafficking, Promoting Democracy
Rosalee Keech appointed to U.N. post for League of Women Voters.
- Name: Rosalee Keech is the Main Observer to the United Nations for the League of Women Voters U.S. As an Observer, Keech, along with four Alternate Observers from throughout the nation, sits on a variety of U.N. committees representing the goals and priorities of the League of Women Voters. Founded in 1920, the league was not only “instrumental in helping to foster the right of women to vote,” said Keech, who was appointed in May. “They were also instrumental in fostering the establishment of the United Nations.” As a result, the League of Women Voters was one of the first Non-Governmental Organizations [NGOs] to have established a relationship with, and presence within, the United Nations. “We act as liaisons between the United Nations and the League of Women Voters to promote both policies and programs that we’re in accordance with,” Keech said of the League’s Observers.
- Part of Town: Keech moved to Montville Township when she married her husband, Doug, 28 years ago. The couple came to Montville from Rockaway in an effort to find an easier commute to New York City, “without leaving Morris County,” she said. Lower taxes were a factor in their decision to remain in the county. Keech has three children, ages 35, 34 and 27, and three grandchildren, ages 8, 6, and 2. She is retired from AIG.
- Career: “I was an information officer for AIG,” Keech said. “I’ve been in systems for 20-plus years and before that I was a claims person.” The 60-year old, Keech, holds a bachelor's degree in education and economics from Douglas College, “the women’s college at Rutgers,” and a master's degree in finance from NYU.
- World Trade Center: As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Keech, who was in the World Trade Center during the attacks, is confused by the lack of progress at the site. “New York for me has always held a special place. I love New York. Ten years later, to see a construction site still going on, is…” she paused. “No, I just can’t understand it. I can’t understand why people can’t just get together and figure out what needs to be done.” Keech admits that she is an impatient person. “It was an event that caused me to focus. We have such little time here. We have to make the time count. That is what I am trying to do.” Making a difference is one of the motivating factors that drew Keech to the U.N. position. “I do think it makes a difference,” she said of her work with the United Nations.
- Activities: Keech has run for political office several times. “I can’t tell you how many times, other than a lot,” she noted. Despite the fact that the Democrat never won a seat, it is her political career that introduced her to the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan grassroots organization. “I became involved after I ran for office.” As a candidate for Montville Township Committee, Morris County Freeholder and Sheriff, Keech was invited many times to participate in local debates. Local debates, voter registration campaigns and get-the-vote-out initiatives are just some of the campaigns for which the League of Women Voters is renowned in communities across the United States.
- Issues: But the League of Women Voters also has an international voice. “[The mission] basically, is to promote democracy both here, mainly in the United States, but, it also works overseas,” Keech said. In her role for the league, Keech sits on The Working Group on Girls, an NGO “which tries to promote the rights of the girl child, which is what they call girls, to insure that they grow up to be fully functioning women that can participate in society,” Keech said. She serves as the chairwoman of the task force to prevent violence against girls, and she sits on another NGO dedicated to preventing human trafficking. In addition to women’s rights, other League priorities include climate change, sustainability, and democracy. “They are non-partisan,” Keech said of the League of Women Voters. “But, I would have to say they do take political stands. That’s the reason they are there. They are there to promote various political ideas. And, through the political process, to get things done.”
- Goals: “One of the things that I would like to see diminish, if not end… is trafficking of women and girls,” said Keech. U.N. estimates calculate that over 300,000 girls in the United States are victims of human trafficking. Worldwide the number is much higher. “The average age of these girls is 13. That’s the average age,” she said. According to Keech, most legal systems treat the girls as the “perpetrators of the crime, rather than the victims. Men are rarely prosecuted. I think we would go a long way if we arrested the johns and publicized their names,” she added. Trafficking occurs all over the world including the United States. “I don’t understand it, in a country like the United States, how we tolerate it, but we seem to turn a blind eye to the situation.” Ending human trafficking is one of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals [MDGs]. Keech hopes to assist in achieving MDGs, including ending violence against women and girls, aiding in programs to promote democracy, and in increasing women’s participation in the democratic process through voting and holding office. “Because there are still some countries where women can’t vote,” she said.
- Other Activities: Ten years ago, Keech was appointed to the N.J. Board of Professional Planners. The position is a governor-appointed post. She is also a board member for Jewish Home @ Home in Bergen County.
- Time: Keech spends 15 to 20 hours weekly on U.N. initiatives. “When the U.N. is in session, usually September through June, I attend meetings every week, at least once a week,” Keech said. In addition, she sits on many committees, panels and task forces. She writes and presents position papers. Meetings can be as small as a briefing to 100 or 300 people, or as large as a full blown session to thousands of people in the General Assembly hall and an annex.
- Favorite Thing About Montville: “The comfort of knowing so many people in town,” Keech said. “The people. That’s what makes the community great. Locally, just this block, we have great neighbors. You know, you feel like you’re home.”
- Something You Would Change: “I don’t think that Montville Township is very open in its dialogue, politically. I think a lot of deals are made behind closed doors politically,” Keech said. She would like to see more transparency, and more checks and balances to insure that “things don’t fall through the cracks.”
- Hobbies: “I love to swim,” said Keech, who uses her pool every day during the season. “That’s probably my main diversion.” She also enjoys reading and watching old movies.
- Philosophy: Keech’s father is a Holocaust survivor. She herself made it out of the twin towers on 9/11. Both incidents have shaped her philosophy. “We are put on this earth to give back to the community,” she said. “And it’s very important to do that.”
Correction: The original article incorrectly stated the name of the home board Keech sits on, as well as the U.N. trafficking figure. The actual name of the board is Home @ Home and the figure was national, not world-wide.