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March 29, 2019
Posted by Thomas Becker JD'08, Julia Wenck JD'20, and Fabiola Alvelais JD'20
For women, Bolivia is a land of paradoxes. The Bolivian government has enacted some of the world’s most progressive legislation to advance women’s rights. It was one of the first countries to criminalize femicide − the killing of women because they are women – and maintains strict protocols to combat gender violence. Yet despite these efforts, violence against women remains a pervasive problem. Bolivia’s femicide rate is the second highest in South America and one of the highest in the world.
In April 2018, Mujeres Creando, a Bolivian feminist collective, asked the International Human Rights Clinic to examine femicide in Bolivia. Throughout this academic year, clinical students Fabiola Alvelais JD ’20, Isabel Pitaro JD ’20, and Julia Wenck JD ’20 have worked on this issue under the supervision of Clinical Instructor Thomas Becker JD ’08, conducting extensive desk research and traveling to Bolivia to interview families of femicide victims, activists, and government officials involved in the investigation and adjudication of femicide cases.
Last Friday, the Clinic released its report, “ ‘No Justice for Me’: Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia.” Becker and Alvelais presented the report at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz. Family members of femicide victims, academics, and the former Human Rights Ombudsman of Bolivia (and current Chancellor of the University) participated in the presentation before an overflow crowd of roughly one thousand people.
“No Justice for Me” identifies three key areas that have hindered the government’s efforts to prevent femicide and hold perpetrators accountable: (1) investigative barriers, (2) judicial barriers, and (3) institutional discrimination. The report calls on actors in the Bolivian government and civil society to address these obstacles, adhere to the country’s own progressive legislation on femicide, and work together to address the pervasiveness of femicide and impunity in the country.
Helen Alvarez, whose daughter Andrea Aramayo was killed by her boyfriend in 2015, was interviewed for the report and remains concerned about the prevalence of femicide. “All women can be victims of femicide in Bolivia,” she noted. “Unfortunately, impunity sends a signal to men that they can get away with killing women.”
Though Alvarez recognizes that preventing femicide and holding perpetrators accountable will continue to be difficult, she is hopeful that the Clinic’s report can be a powerful tool in this struggle and ultimately bring her daughter’s case one step closer to justice.
The clinical team shared its report with the public, conducting dozens of radio, print, and television interviews. “I was genuinely moved by the widespread interest in battling femicide in Bolivia,” Alvelais reflected.
Becker and Alvelais also met with high level members of the Bolivian government, including the President of the Senate, the Vice-President of Congress, the President of the Justice Commission of Congress, and the Director General of the Plurinational Service for Women and Depatriarchalization, to discuss the report.
To Becker, these meetings signaled a sincere effort to confront the problem of femicide. “We had a unique opportunity to sit down with members of the government, who showed a genuine interest in collaborating to eradicate femicide in the country,” he explained. “We are optimistic about the possibilities for meaningful change.”
March 19, 2019
The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School seeks an experienced practitioner for a consultancy to support an exciting new women’s leadership initiative. The purpose of this new initiative is to innovate and experiment with programming and training that: (1) better prepares women graduates of our Clinic to become successful leaders in human rights, thereby increasing the share of leadership positions in human rights that are occupied by women, and (2) better prepares all graduates of our Clinic to engage with tough questions and conversations around gender, equity, and leadership in the workplace.
Although the Clinic has historically worked on numerous women’s rights issues, we have not grappled with how to best develop our own students into leaders who can advance workplace equity and improve workplace culture. This initiative will examine the role of women as leaders in the human rights movement to date—both their successes and challenges—and will also seek to build students’ leadership skills, support the Clinic as an environment that nurtures women’s achievement, and engage human rights organizations and institutions to better enable women to fulfill their potential. Continue Reading…
March 13, 2019
By Susan Farbstein
We’re thrilled to share this happy news: in honor of International Women’s Day 2019, the Clinic’s very own Yee Htun has been selected by the Harvard Women’s Law Association as a “Women Inspiring Change.” To say this honor is well deserved would be an understatement.
Since joining the Clinic in 2016, Yee has guided teams of students as they engage with some of the gravest and most pressing human rights issues facing her native Myanmar: ending violence against women and girls, decriminalizing sodomy laws and enshrining LGBTQI rights, repealing or revising laws that encroach on freedom of expression, documenting hate speech and designing strategies to promote tolerance, spearheading coordination between local and international organizations seeking accountability for atrocities, and improving land rights for the rural poor.
Yee’s personal story is also inspiring. Yee fled Myanmar as a young child in the late 1980s, following the military junta’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. After five years in a Thai refugee camp with her mother and sisters, the family emigrated to Canada as government-sponsored refugees. Yee would go on to earn a J.D. specialized in international law, to be selected by the Nobel Women’s Initiative to lead the first-ever international campaign to stop rape and sexual violence in conflict, and to serve as the inaugural director of the Myanmar Program at Justice Trust.
But Yee’s dazzling resume, strategic judgment, and legal accomplishments pale in comparison to who she is as a person. She earns your respect and admiration without an ounce of ego. Students are in awe of Yee without being intimidated by her. She’s a hug and a shot of adrenaline, all rolled into one.
My co-director, Tyler Giannini, echoes this sentiment: “There are people who just naturally connect with others and inspire them to action—Yee is one of them. She has a tremendous ability to bring people together, which is so critical in a place like Myanmar where the military has tried to divide people for so long. She leads with her energy, which is contagious. And she leads with her commitment to justice, which is unwavering.”
I have watched, again and again, as clinical teams working with Yee are transformed by the experience—discovering not just their passion for human rights but also the confidence to act, speak, and lead in ways that they might never have imagined without her support and mentorship.
So it comes as no surprise that Yee’s students nominated her for this recognition, singling out her “courage, empathy, and tenacity” as particularly inspiring. Describing a recent trip to Myanmar, the students emphasized her incomparable “optimism and relentless advocacy” as she balanced strategizing with local partners, drafting human rights reports, and leading workshops, all while mentoring and training them.
I first met Yee at a staff meeting when I returned from a semester of leave and was immediately drawn in by her confidence, sincerity, and good humor. As she discussed the work that she and her students had undertaken that term, I was overwhelmed by how much she had accomplished, and energized by her warmth and enthusiasm. I still feel that way every time we speak—impressed, inspired, and invigorated.
Yee, thank you for giving so much of yourself to your students and your work. Thank you for being not only a generous colleague, but also a friend and a true role model. Thank you for motivating us all to rise to your level.
March 12, 2019
In February 2019, OPIA Wasserstein Fellow Lillian Langford JD’13 spent a few days in residence at HLS, where she gave a talk co-sponsored by the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative on “Sustainable Justice: Lessons from Twenty Years of Domestic War Crimes Prosecutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina” (video linked in title) that reflected on her career and current role as Head of Rule of Law for the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
During law school, Lillian was an active member of the International Human Rights Clinic; after graduating, she was awarded a Henigson Fellowship in Human Rights. Following her recent visit to HLS, she spent a few moments reflecting to the Human Rights Program (HRP) on that experience, her career to date, and giving advice to future advocates interested in a path like hers. Read her Q&A below, and don’t forget to apply for the Henigson (and the Satter) Fellowships in Human Rights. Applications are due March 15! Continue Reading…
March 8, 2019
The Human Rights Program and Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA) at Harvard Law School will jointly host one Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence who will spend four months on the HLS campus (September through December 2019), and split their time between OPIA and HRP. At OPIA, the fellow will advise students about international public interest and human rights careers and assist OPIA staff in developing advising resources. At HRP, the fellow will devote the majority of their time to research and writing on a specific human rights topic and be a member of its community of visiting fellows.
The Human Rights Program’s Visiting Fellows Program seeks to give thoughtful individuals with a demonstrated commitment to human rights an opportunity to step back and conduct a serious inquiry in the human rights field. Individuals who become fellows at the Program are usually scholars with a substantial background in human rights or experienced activists. The fellows form an essential part of the human rights community at Harvard Law School and participate actively in the Human Rights Program Fellows Colloquium, presenting their research to Human Rights Program staff, faculty, and other fellows. Read more about past Visiting Fellows and former OPIA/HRP Fellows here.
Please see OPIA’s website for additional information about the program and details on how to apply to be a joint Wasserstein Fellow-in-Residence with OPIA and the Human Rights Program. The deadline to apply is Friday, April 5, 2019.
March 7, 2019
Title: Community and Ally Outreach Coordinator
Location: Based in Berkeley, CA (with extensive domestic and international travel)
Start Date: Late Spring 2019 (Flexible)
The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School and the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity are seeking an experienced coordinator and facilitator to work on an extended consultancy to support an ambitious new community-driven human rights and economic justice initiative. Communities understand what threatens their rights and have much to contribute to processes that would better protect their rights and livelihoods. Communities should be able to claim their place at the table whenever their economic resources and livelihood are at stake, and especially for discussions about the development and implementation of business and human rights frameworks.
The consultancy will help facilitate a global process with three aims: 1) supporting communities through local workshops and assisting them with tools to advance their rights and power, 2) nurturing a network of allies to support communities, and 3) over the long term, assist local communities develop their own global set of business and human rights principles and a framework for economic justice. It is hoped these community-developed principles will complement existing business and human rights frameworks, and ultimately operate as guidelines and/or as an approach to ensure that community voices and perspectives are included in decisions and activities that affect them. Continue Reading…
March 4, 2019
Advice for Prospective Post-Graduate Fellows From IHRC Senior Clinical Fellow Nicolette Waldman JD’13
International Human Rights Clinic Senior Clinical Fellow Nicolette Waldman JD’13 recently shared some advice for prospective post-graduate fellows, including tips for preparing your application and lessons learned for how to make the most of your year abroad. As a Satter Fellow in Human Rights in 2013-2014, Nicolette worked as a field researcher with Center for Civilians in Conflict in Somalia, the Philippines, and Syria, focusing on civilian experiences in armed conflict. In the video below, Nicolette also traces her career trajectory back to this fellowship, as it gave her the field experience and independence required for her later work with Amnesty International and others.
For more on how to apply to post, visit our fellowships page. For the 2019-2020 cycle, applications for the Henigson and Satter Fellowships will only be accepted online (through one portal). Applications are due March 15, 2019 and prospective applicants should meet with an advisor before applying.
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