Northwestern law students present recent international fieldwork

The Northwestern Pritzker School of Law’s clinical program, the Bluhm Legal Clinic, provides students with a direct, real-world experience representing clients and serving as advocates. On Thursday, April 14, the Center of International Human Rights–one of the clinic’s 14 centers–held its annual presentation for global fieldwork research. Two of the four works presented were part of the Access to Health Project, an interdisciplinary health and human rights project that integrates the clinic’s Center of International Human Rights, the Kellogg School of Management and Feinberg School of Medicine. Students and faculty, through this project, work with a community in the developing world to assess the health needs of that community and innovate a sustainable intervention.


Criminal Justice Reform in Malawi

By Stephanie Ciupka, Margaret Truesdale, and Alice Murgier

This project was rooted in Blantyre, Malawi, and its objective was to reduce homicide backlog. In this area, all homicide offenses are charged as murder because little police investigation goes into homicide reporting. As a result, even manslaughter is often charged as murder. Most shockingly, there are only seven public defenders for a population of 661,444 people. The major consequences of this injustice are overcrowded prisons, where inmates have to sleep back-to-back, and defendants on remand for up to a decade. The students in this project collaborated with prosecutors, paralegals and public defenders in Malawi to identity wrongly convicted individuals. These students had the support of the Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI), which deploys trained paralegals to give legal education, advice and assistance to complement the work of the existing criminal justice system in Malawi. Another method to target the issue of prison overcrowding is establishing camp courts, in which the prosecutor, magistrate and clerk travel to the prison.


Landmine Victims in Colombia

By Montserrat Peniche Hijuelos, Flavio Aurelio Wandeck Filho, and Ana Sophia Merlo

The Colombian government has developed a project for the eradication of Cocoa; one of their methods is to employ rural, destitute civilians to manually destroy the plants. Cocoa is typically grown in areas where illegal armed forces are prominent, thus there is little government control. The guerilla and paramilitary troops in this area have planted landmines around the plants in order to protect them; stepping on a landmine results in a massive explosion that injures or kills the victim. The presence of landmines has posed a huge threat to the nation’s rural population. Furthermore, the victims do not have access to compensation and disability pensions. For this project, students partnered with CCM, Congreso Colombia de Mineria, to launch an initiative with the goal of raising awareness for this issue and fighting for victim compensation.


Fighting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Mali

By Alice Murgier, Juliet Sorensen, Anna Maitland, and Shannon Galvin

FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. In Mali, 91.4% of women have undergone FGM because it is a social and customary practice. These procedures can cause of a number of severe and negative consequences: excessive bleeding, infections due to unsanitary operations, and scar tissue that lead to complication at childbirth, and trauma. Curbing FGM in Mali was the pilot initiative of the Access to Health Project. Students wrote songs in local dialects about public health sanitation and broadcasted them through radio shows; they performed skits through “Troupe de Haire” and educated through theater.


Accessing “Access to Health” Issues in Nigeria

By Farzeen Tariq, Gergana Peeva, Shannon Galvin, and Juliet Sorensen

This project aimed to investigate and target issues of maternal health, water and sanitation, malaria, fire safety, and HIV/AIDS. The presentation primarily focused on the first two issues. Family planning and contraception are major concerns, as well as maternal mortality rates. One root of the issue is the lack of basic reproductive and anatomy education. In addition, there is only one midwife in Otodo Gbame, a community in the Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State. She is an elderly woman who cannot travel beyond the limits of her own home, so women in labor have to walk a narrow plank to a boat that takes you across a small stream to reach her home. Furthermore, the issue of sanitation is also a serious matter. Open defecation is often the only option due to faults in basic infrastructure. In addressing these issues, the implementation phase is still ongoing; the team is looking into a comprehensive community education intervention.

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