Wayne Law students receive $5,000 stipends to work on human rights issues at NGOs around the globeJuly 10, 2012
DETROIT -- Wayne State University Law School students Michael Osman of Dearborn Heights, Eric Shovein of Grosse Pointe Farms, Dessislava Terzieva of Troy, and Kristin York of Ferndale, are spending their summers in Lebanon and India working on legal and human-rights issues.
Each student received an International Public Interest Law Fellowship that provides a $5,000 stipend to cover travel and living expenses for up to two months of work at participating non-governmental organizations during the summer after their first or second years in law school. Professor Gregory Fox directs the program.
"The fellowships help Wayne Law students get firsthand experience doing legal reform work in societies that have enormous unmet needs,” Fox explains. “We place students with locally-run organizations that respond to problems specific to their societies. Having an eager, bright student to assist with projects over the summer is enormously beneficial to these groups, many of which labor with small budgets and staffs. And for the students the experiences can be life-changing."
Michael Osman would agree. He is in Beirut, interning for the Arab Center for the Development of the Rule of Law and Integrity. He has been working with ACRLI Director Roger Khoury, who has taken Osman to meet judges, politicians and researchers. Osman is working on a project called "The Future of Law" for the Hague Institute for Internationalization of Law.
“I am originally from Beirut, and my roots have led to my interest in the affairs of the Middle East,” he said. “It has always been a dream of mine to work with legal entities to improve the legal and political systems within the Middle East, specifically Lebanon.
“Although I am very much interested in working in the international public interest field, I do have a passion for business and commerce,” he said. “Therefore, the plan is to combine international law and business. With corporations and businesses expanding globally, these entities are looking for individuals who can help them get to where they want to be.”
Eric Shovein is in West Bengal, India, working with the international human rights and torture law organization MASUM. The internship will help prepare him for his ongoing studies on international and immigration law. Since he’s been in India, Shovein has gone to the border region and taken part in meetings.
“I was put on stage and addressed around 1,300 people about torture abuses in their region,” he writes via email. “I addressed issues of the Right to Life, Below Poverty Level cards that are supposed to be distributed to them but are not; the torture abuses; and told them about the domestic and international laws that forbid what is happening to them.
“Afterward we passed by the Border Security Force outpost on our way back to town. I never thought I’d be this involved in the battle for human rights….I always dreamed to work in torture law, so this was a very big moment in my life.”
Dessislava Terzieva, a native of Sofia, Bulgaria, is working for the Dalit Foundation in New Delhi.
“The organization is centered on protecting and ending discrimination against the Dalit, the lowest caste in India’s caste system,” she said. “I was attracted to the mission, and after doing some research, was really impressed by their willingness to work with other grassroots organizations, sharing my belief that large-scale community effort leads to better success.” She intends to explore international human rights law after graduation.
“We're in the outskirts of the city, in a small village which barely has electricity. Instead they use candles - all of the sights are simply mind-blowing!” she emailed. “It has also been really interesting to see what the fellows have done with their grants, to hear their stories, and see what they have planned for the next year. It's also great to see the way the group functions and how everyone interacts/learns from their peers. “
Kristin York is working with People’s Watch in Tamil Nadu, India.
“People’s Watch is a highly respected Indian human rights organization that monitors human rights violations, provides education and training to the community at large, and intervenes in legal issues,” she said. “People’s Watch monitors, reports and intervenes in violations such as police torture, custodial death, caste abuses and atrocities, violence against women, corporal punishment and violence against minorities.”
And those issues are exactly what interest her, she said.
“I would like to eventually work for an indigenous organization, preferably in West, Central or East Africa that focuses on women’s rights” York said.
As an undergraduate at Kingston University in England, a history course on genocide sparked her passion for human rights work. While working at Legal Services of South Central Michigan in Ann Arbor, York volunteered with a domestic violence response team, and works with a number of other human rights groups as a Wayne Law student.
“These opportunities proved my talent for working with survivors of violence, and my love for such work,” York said. “Women’s rights are my passion.”
Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution of higher education offering more than 400 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 31,000 students.
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