III. Week 2 and une Manifestation Politique Genevoise

Visit from the US State Department

When IBJ receives grant funding, it is generally either core funding or programmatic funding. Core funding is used to fund IBJ's operations in Geneva, while programmatic funding is used to fund IBJ’s projects around the world. IBJ interns are often searching for grants to apply for when the office is less busy.

The US State Department currently funds one of IBJ’s international programs and will be visiting Geneva to perform a routine check-in. One of my tasks in preparation for this visit wasIto review the internal policies, manuals, and procedures of IBJ to ensure they conform with the standards set forth in 2 CFR 200. The US State Department provided a checklist for us to go through internally prior to the meeting so we can prepare for the meeting and identify areas of needed improvement. Together, Abi and I reviewed the checklist, located any pertinent internal documents that would be needed to review and complete the checklist, and made recommendations to IBJ’s International Program Director and Associate Director on what the State Department will likely tell us to change. Though this was not as interesting as the funding proposal for the project in Afghanistan, it was enlightening to learn about US regulations of grants and to see firsthand how an international non-profit works.

While working on this project, the deadline for the funding proposal for our project in Afghanistan (which I discussed here) loomed in the background. I continued working with Abi and IBJ staff to edit the proposal. We had another call with the displaced Afghan lawyer and judge to ensure we had our questions answered and we were all on the same page. The most challenging part of the proposal was understanding the specific language the UN requires in the "Results Framework" which is used to project how many people will benefit from the project and what specific outcomes will follow. Working together, we were able to come to a final proposal that we were all very happy with. I had a sigh of relief when I received word that the proposal was submitted on Friday, the date of the deadline.

"On est fortes, on est fières, on est féministes et en colère!”

A group of Swiss activists, all in purple, orchestrated feminist chants by playing their drums in a deafening beat that reverberated throughout Place de Neuve. I went with several IBJ interns to witness the impressive demonstration at a central location in Geneva. These protests occurred throughout Switzerland to demand fairer wages for women, more protection from sexual and gender based violence, and to demand the Swiss government not raise the age of retirement for women to 65.

Several of the chants the group performed to the beating of the drums included:

“On est fortes, on est fières, on est féministe et en colère!”
“So-So-Solidarité, avec les femmes du monde entier!”
“Si c’est pas oui, c’est non!”

The translations do not do the chants justice, due to the way the articulation fit into the rhythm of the beat, but they translate as follows respectively:

“We are strong, we are proud, we are feminists and angry!”
“So-so-solidarity, with women around the world!”
“If it’s not yes, it’s no!”

With the US Supreme Court on the verge of reversing decades of gender based protections in the already leaked Dobbs opinion, it is more important than ever to unite in solidarity against gender inequality. Even while riding the bus to work every day, I see signs indicating that gender based violence is on the rise in Switzerland. I’ve always been an activist and when I learned about this demonstration, it was important for me to attend and see the Swiss people fighting the ongoing fight for gender equality.

Paroles sages d'une avocate respectée

All of the interns had another unique opportunity to hear from one of Karen Tse's mentors, Mia Yamamoto. Mia was very open about her life story and afforded us the chance to ask about her journey to becoming a public defender in California. She was born in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona during WWII, one of the US's most atrocious acts. Mia infamously says that she was born "doing time." At UCLA, she was at the top of her class and received job offers from big law firms and prosecutor's offices, but she smugly declined all of them. She went to law school to help people that cannot afford representation. She described a job interview she had where she was interviewed by the Public Defender's office and the Prosecutor's office, which is quite ironic. She very clearly articulated she would not work for the Prosecutor's office, ever. 

Mia also described how she was placed between a rock and a hard place. She is an advocate for social justice, but also was a public defender. She decided that she could not have her voice and opinions blow back on the Public Defender's office, so when she came out as a trans woman in her 60s, she left the Public Defender's office. To this day, she values the work they do and believes Public Defenders are some of the best lawyers in the world. 

Though I could never relate to the horrors that she and her family faced as Japanese Americans during WWII, I did relate to parts of her law school journey. She witnessed many aspects of the US justice system that are unjust and inequitable, as we all inevitably do as law students. She did not want to work for unethical institutions for a paycheck, which is a firm stance I have taken since entering law school. There is more justice in helping the underserved and undervalued people in society than in selling out for a paycheck. I cannot relate to Mia's transness, but I cherish the value she brings to the LGBTQ community as someone with such a beautiful soul and inspiring story. 

Meeting Mia was inspiring and easily one of the highlights of my internshup thus far. It was touching to see the pride in Mia's eyes as she witnessed her mentee's work at IBJ experiencing so much success.