From Johannesburg, South Africa to Sarasota, Florida.
While I had been excited about the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time, bungee jump in Soweto, and experience a safari in Kruger National Park—it was the work that I was most excited about. And luckily for me, that has been the one constant amongst the multitude of changes due to Covid-19.
This summer I have the incredible opportunity to work with The Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA). ISLA is a feminist pan-African organization that focuses on the expansion of women’s human, sexual, and economic rights throughout Africa. While they are headquartered in South Africa, the work is primarily focused throughout Eastern African countries, such as Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi. There is also significant work in Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia. ISLA is organized into thematic areas each with its own thematic lead lawyer. The themes are Violence Against Women, Sexual Rights, and Women’s Socio-Economic Rights. Due to my experience working with victims of sex trafficking and sexual assault, I will be mostly working with the Violence Against Women theme.
Last week I met with the thematic leads to be briefed on the various cases they are currently working on and was introduced to the other interns from Arizona State (all remotely of course). Because of spotty internet connection and the struggles of working from home, our meetings are over the phone rather than video calls. It’s an odd phenomenon not knowing the faces of the people you are working with and a challenge to know when to speak up without necessary social cues. However, we are all navigating this new norm together and it is our passion for the work that brings us closer.
This week was the first real week of work. I was given research questions focused on minimum sentencing requirements and told to read over the case brief and prepare a research memo. My research question intersects with two of my legal interests, human rights and criminal law. I have been looking to comparative jurisprudence within Africa as well as Western and European nations, scouring over penal codes and criminal statutes.
My summer is not filled with new adventures and the realization of my lifelong dream to go on a safari. But it is filled with the comfort of my home town, welcomed family time, and the country’s number one beach. Growing up in Florida I spent my summers surfing on the East Coast and tanning on the beach. This summer I traded the great African plains for Sarasota’s finest beaches. And while I’m sad this is the case, I know I will make it to Africa someday and the wait will make it all that much more worth it! In the meantime, I’ll just have to settle fighting for women’s rights a continent away.