As member countries of the United Nations, Argentina and Zambia are required to submit reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council on the status of human rights provided to their indigenous populations. Two groups of OU Law students in the International Human Rights Clinic traveled to these countries in January 2012 to investigate their human rights protections. The students met with native peoples, government representatives and others to research how each country’s indigenous communities can be helped.
Hear what they have to say about their undertaking and how it has enhanced their law school training, as well as their view of the world.
Cassidy Chew, a 3L from Oklahoma City, said she joined the clinic to gain insight on different ways of life and develop more of a global perspective on human rights.
“The Human Rights Clinic is a great opportunity to experience another culture and draft a report for the United Nations that could make an impact on indigenous communities in that area,” Chew said. “We interviewed members of the Mapuche Nation. I was very moved by their willingness to speak with us and share their culture, values and problems with us."
Jayme Crosby, a 3L from Broken Arrow, Okla., said she was excited about the opportunity to impact the lives of those they researched in a tangible way.
“I feel like the report we will be submitting could actually make a difference in these peoples' lives and potentially make some great changes in the way the country treats its citizens,” said Crosby. “Some of these people don't have a voice and our report may be the only way they will be heard by the Human Rights Council at the United Nations.”
Shannon Slagle, a 2L from Owasso, Okla., said she appreciated the chance to gain first hand exposure to international human rights law.
“The clinic provided me with an opportunity to actually apply my legal research and writing skills in a way that may benefit the people of Argentina,” Slagle said. “Speaking to a variety of people with different perspectives and conducting research allowed us to get the most accurate picture of complex social and legal issues on an international level.”
Gennie Arvites, a 2L from Anchorage, Ala., has been an active member of the Alaska Air National Guard for ten years, interacting closely with her state’s indigenous people. She said her previous experience and future goals gave her a desire to participate in the clinic.
“Working with Alaska native tribes has increased my passion for preserving the rights of indigenous people both stateside and internationally,” Arvites said. “I joined the clinic with the hope of gaining skills and experiences needed to fulfill a law career with the military and working with Alaska native tribes.”
Carol Verbeek, a 2L from Tyler, Texas, focused on the section of the report concerning childrens’ rights, including the right to free, compulsory education. She said her exposure to the schools was an eye-opening experience.
“My most valuable experience in Zambia was having an opportunity to visit some of the community schools that are not funded by the government in both Lusaka and Livingstone,” Verbeek said. “It was amazing to see these children, many of them very poor, so excited to come to school, despite their circumstances.”
Trista Wilson, a 3L from Freedom, Okla., said she got involved in the Human Rights Clinic to expand her knowledge of Indian law with practical application.
“I thought the clinic would be a great way to develop my understanding of Indian law outside of the traditional classroom setting,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the group was given the opportunity to meet with multiple non-governmental agencies and government officials to discuss real issues affecting the indigenous people of Zambia.
“I valued learning how Zambians are addressing some of the issues troubling the country today,” she said. “It was amazing to see all the important work so many people are doing to address human rights in Zambia.”
Lizzie Wozobski 3L from Tulsa, Okla., said she decided to apply to the International Human Rights Clinic during her final semester of law school as way to broaden her understanding of international law.
“I started this experience with the expectation of gaining another perspective of the study and practice of law,” Wozobski said. “Our actual experience on the ground in Zambia learning, discussing and seeing the role of law abroad, and particularly within the context of international human rights, went far beyond my early ideas of what this journey would be.”
Please visit the International Human Rights Clinic page on our website to learn more about the program.