Each year, Professor Jill Morrison selects a group of women and men to join the Georgetown Law community as Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa (LAWA) and Women’s Law and Public Policy (WLPPFP) Fellows. The LAWA program trains human rights lawyers, judges, and professors from Africa who are committed to advancing the rights of women and girls in their home countries. Each Fellow earns an LL.M. degree over the course of the Program. Similarly, the WLPPFP Program provides fellowships for public interest lawyers in the United States with the mission of advancing the rights of women and girls. Throughout their Fellowships, WLPPFP work with various public interest organizations in D.C. or Georgetown Law clinics to gain practical experience working on women’s issues.
On Friday, March 21, 2014, the Georgetown LAWA and WLPPFP Fellowship Programs joined with Human Rights Action-Amnesty International, the Human Rights Institute, and several student groups at the Law Center to present a day-long symposium centering on international women’s human rights. The day began with opening remarks by Professor Morrison, Executive Director of the Fellowship Programs, and ensued with a series of panels and speakers.
Moderated by the Francis Cabell Brown Professor of International Law, Professor Edith Brown Weiss, the first panel focused on the importance of women’s representation in government, gender-sensitive legislative decisions, and gender-based employment policies. LAWA Elsy Chemurgor Sainna, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Senior Program Officer at the Kenyan Section of the International Commission of Jurists, began by discussing the need to reconceive the link between gender and fiscal policies and to enact affirmative action laws centered on representing the everyday “Joe the Plumber” (“Wanjiku”) in government. Next, LAWA and legal practitioner Fagbenle Oluwseun Oyindamola explained how “energy is something that is vital to every aspect of devel- opment,” stating that “Nigerian society is such that they do not see energy as a gendered issue.” Ms. Oyindamola called for a review of the Renewable Energy Master Plan, repositioning of the Nigerian Gas Sector, and the integration and imple- mentation of gender-based energy frameworks. WLPPFP Vasu Reddy, Fellow at the National Partnership for Women and Families, finished up the panel by discussing discriminatory workplace practices in the United States and the legislative efforts being taken to counter gender disparities, such as the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
The second panel centered on the issue of gender-based violence against women in Kenya, Uganda, Kurdistan, and the United States. “The government has a responsibility to protect its victims,” stated LAWA Alice Kinyua, Legal Officer and Manager of the Mudzini Kwetu Center Advocate of the High Court in Kenya. Ms. Kinyua explored the significance and difficulty of collecting and preserving evidence in sexual violence cases. LAWA Maria Edith Jurua, Coordinator of Law and Advocacy for Women in Uganda, then gave a vivid depiction of the detrimental effects female genital mutilation (FGM) has on girls and communities, challenging the audience to answer, “Where is the justice for these young girls lying down on the floor?” WLPPFP Courtney Cross, Clinical Teaching Fellow in the Domestic Violence Clinic, provided an overview of domestic violence statistics and services in D.C., while student Cynthia Reed (J.D. ’16) discussed her research on FGM in Kurdistan. Moderator Jennifer Long, adjunct professor and Director of AEquitas, contributed to the discussion by using her prosecutorial experience to analyze the criminal justice response to domestic violence, highlighting the importance of thoughtful prosecution and a comprehensive civil response to domestic violence survivors.
The final panel, moderated by the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic Director and Professor of Law Susan Deller Ross, explored the issue of gender-specific health services for women in Ethiopia, Cameroon, and the United States. To begin, LAWA Angelina Atabong, Judge and Investigating Magistrate in Cameroon, presented her research on improving awareness and access to emergency contraception, emphasizing the need for a reproductive health law, stronger human resources, and awareness on multiple levels, particularly in the media. LAWA Behailu Teklehaimanot Weldeyohannes, Law Professor and Vice-Director of the Legal Aid Center at Jimma University in Ethiopia, then spoke on the need for women-based health care in Ethiopian prisons, explaining how “the prison system is designed to fit men, not women.” To provide a United States perspective, WLPPFP Sara Kluberdanz discussed her work at the Women’s Collective, stating how the organization has found housing and homelessness to be the number one concern among women living with HIV and AIDS in D.C. Aram Schvey of the Center for Reproductive Rights concluded the panel with a presentation on the harms of unsafe abortion worldwide and the effects of U.S. foreign policy, taking the audience through an examination of the Helms Amendment and other U.S. laws.
Two featured speakers also participated in the Symposium. Sara Ibrahim, Advocacy Counsel for Refugee Protection at Human Rights First, served as the keynote speaker for the event and described the importance of protections for women through the lens of her experience with refugees. “The rights of all are bound to the rights of women,” Ms. Ibrahim told the audience in between stories of former clients, quotes by Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt, and a poem by Ruth Forman. Director of the Human Rights Institute and the Center for Applied Legal Studies Clinic, Professor Andrew Schoenholtz, provided introductory remarks and led a discussion with Ms. Ibrahim following her speech.
Additionally, during the luncheon, Caroline Hubbard of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) provided an overview of NDI’s global democratic consulting efforts. Ms. Hubbard specified three conditions for women to meaningfully participate in public and political life, including a cultural environment in which women are perceived as equal to men, the confidence and capacity of individual women, and an eco-system with effective institutional and structural processes linked to the political participation of women.
HRA-AI member and Wrongful Convictions Committee Chair Madison Mélon directed the coordination of the Symposium and of a screening of the film Girl Rising leading up to the Symposium. Student group co-sponsors included Advocates Against Sexual Violence, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, American Constitution Society, GULC Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, American Civil Liberties Union-GULC, and the Women’s Legal Alliance.