2011 Human Rights Fellows

UC Berkeley students join with others from Davis, Irvine, San Diego, Hastings Law School, and Santa Cruz to tackle human rights issues at home and abroad.

The 2011 fellows are:

Hekia Bodwitch

Hekia Bodwitch, Berkeley
Re-distributing resources, re-shaping state power: Settlement of Maori claims in New Zealand
Stout Research Center, Victoria University - New Zealand

Through the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process, New Zealand’s Maori are illuminating state injustices and laying claim to territory and identity-based rights. The bureaucratic apparatus that forms New Zealand’s treaty settlement process is heralded internationally by the United Nations and indigenous rights activists as an exemplar of efforts to address historical and present-day grievances of indigenous peoples.  However, the extent to which the process actually challenges hegemonic power relations built upon histories of oppression remains unclear. Examining outcomes of settlement claims, Hekia will work to examine both the extent to which this settlement process actually curbs Maori disadvantage and how it might work as a model for indigenous peoples working to achieve rights elsewhere.


Joanna Cuevas

Joanna Cuevas Ingram, Davis
Litigating Accountability: Human Rights Law in U.S. and International Forums
Center for Constitutional Rights - New York, NY

Partnering with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), this project analyzes how CCR’s litigation, education, and outreach strategies work together to enforce international and domestic rights protections—while maintaining accountability to diverse clients and community-based human rights movements.  Legal work will be conducted in several of the following areas: international investigations into war crimes and acts of torture; global efforts to close the Guantánamo detention center; litigation in domestic courts to hold corporations accountable for international wrongs under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS); and investigations into racial profiling practices in immigration and national security policies and programs.

Kelsey Ellis

Kelsey Ellis, San Diego
20,000 Children: Literacy in Ghana
Ghana Africa International Operations - Ghana

This summer Kelsey will be traveling to Akwatia, Ghana to work with GAIO (Ghana Africa International Operations) where she will be conducting land and technological surveys to provide data for the library being built.  The library is being built for the children of Akwatia and the community to promote literacy, it will be stocked with computers, books, art supplies, and will have running water.  Kelsey will be assessing the needs of the community, so that everything implemented into the library will be used to its full capacity.


Aimee V. Garza

Aimee V. Garza, Santa Cruz
What is a Sanctuary City? : Local Law Enforcement Practices and Immigrant Rights in New Mexico
Somos Un Pueblo Unido - Santa Fe, NM

The “sanctuary city” is a primary subject of contention in debates about illegal immigration and the place of Mexican migrants in the United States. While some cities have responded with overtly discriminatory legislative assaults on undocumented migrants, other locales have acted to protect and integrate them. In partnership with Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrant rights organization based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this project focuses on policy inciatives intended to limit collaboration between local law enforcement and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and improving policing practices. My research evaluates the implementation of the “prohibition of profiling practices act,” a law that Somos Un Pueblo Unido drafted and helped pass in 2009, that aims to eliminate biased policing. The goal this study is to examine how individual agencies have responded to the law and rate their compliance in order to hold them accountable to the communities that they are charged to protect and serve. The relationship between local police and immigrant communities is vital to protecting the human rights of undocumented migrants and also promoting the public safety of all residents. See her report here.


Rachel Jamison

Rachel Jamison, Berkeley
Gender and Access to Justice:  Building a Community Based Justice System in a Post-War Society
Timap for Justice - Sierra Leone

I will be working in Freetown, Sierra Leone with Timap for Justice.  Timap works to train paralegals on international human rights norms and legal principles.  I will be training paralegals on human rights norms related to cases of violence against women.  I will also be working on an impact litigation projects for particularly egregious cases which cannot be handled by community based justice mechanisms.

Jihan Kahssay

Jihan Kahssay, Davis
Refugee Resettlement in the Horn of Africa
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - Ethiopia

As a refugee resettlement intern, I will work with the Addis Ababa resettlement unit to advance individual urban refugee cases for resettlement to third countries. I will work closely with refugees, especially those from Eritrea, to assist in the management of their resettlement cases by conducting interviews, providing counseling, researching country conditions in support of their applications for resettlement, and following-up with UNHCR's partner organizations, including International Organization for Migration, Overseas Processing Entity, resettlement country authorities and others.


Matt Lane

Matt Lane, Irvine
Ragpickers: Female Stewards in Waste Politics, Environmental Care, and Green Futures
Stree Mukti Sanghatana - India

My internship will take place in Mumbai, India, where I focus on the development of infrastructure and technology to accommodate the handling of waste and to develop new business models and knowledge of materialities (specifically scrap metal and e-waste) for a women's rights collective that mediates the business relations of 1600 female ragpickers and invests their income into "green" commodity energy futures.


Cristina Lopez

Cristina López, Berkeley
Support, Reintegration, and Voice for Survivors of Human Trafficking in Sacramento
Opening Doors, Inc. - Sacramento, CA

Cristina will work with Opening Doors Inc to create a record which identifies patterns of human trafficking at migrant camps in Sacramento with the ultimate goal of developing more accessible networks of support, rehabilitation, and reintegration for victims of human trafficking. The outcome will be a record of testimonies from victims of trafficking and community members of migrant camps who see the repercussions of trafficking in their community. Cristina will document the stories of survivors of human trafficking in migrant camps with the goal of helping reduce the frequency of such practices and violations in the greater Sacramento area.


Darren Modzelewski

Darren Modzelewski, Berkeley
Safe Women, Strong Nations
American Indian Resource Center - Helena, MT

Native American women suffer from violence at a rate two and a half times greater than that of any other population in the United States.  One in three will be raped; four in five will be victims of violent assault, and 88% of offenders are non-Native.  Until the Tribal Law and Order Act (2010), limited enforcement authority by tribal governments and police helped perpetuate this violence. Tribes are ready to implement the Act, but the question of ability remains. My research addresses this issue and provides recommendations for increasing tribal capacity to exercise their new criminal jurisdictional capabilities under TOLA.


Dana Moss

Dana Moss, Irvine
Models of Activism and Human Rights Talk in the New Middle East
The New Jordan Research Center - Jordan

Dana will volunteer for the Al-Urdun Al-Jadeed (The New Jordan) Research Center in Amman, Jordan. The UJRC has been a leading institution in the promotion of civil society development, political dialogue and democracy in Jordan for 30 years, but is now looking to shift its activities to include young activists, new social movement organizations and social media. Dana will be initiating the center's new mission and strategies, and will be conducting fieldwork on how human rights organizations talk about and work for rights reform in authoritarian states.


Lis Powelson

Lis Powelson, Berkeley
Implementation of a Syringe Exchange Program and Condom Distribution in a Malaysia Prison
University of Malaya Center of Excellence for Research in AIDS - Malaysia

Of the population of people in Malaysia living with HIV/AIDS, 76.3% are intravenous drug users. The prevalence rate of HIV infection in Malaysian prisons is approximately 6%. This project is an exploration of the steps necessary for implementation of a syringe exchange program and condom distribution in a Malaysian prison. Through interviews and focus groups with prisoners, prison guards and government officials a plan for implementation of these services will be created and implemented. This project aims to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS through the prison by providing better resources for prevention.

Marissa Ram

Marissa Ram, Berkeley
Exposing the Hidden Consequences of Australia’s Restrictive Immigration Policies on Forced Migrants
New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties - Australia

Marissa will collaborate with the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, an Australian NGO with special UN consultative status, to provide legal representation to refugee clients subjected to Australia’s notorious “mandatory detention” policy.  By applying her research on human rights abuses in privatized detention centers to NSWCCL’s legislative recommendations and public policy campaigns, she will endeavor to reframe the current discourse to better invoke public sympathy for refugees.  Additionally, Marissa will formulate policy recommendations in order to increase public awareness of labor and sex trafficking in Australia and improve response efforts and trafficking survivor support programs.

Leah Rorvig

Leah Rorvig, Berkeley
Mistreatment of Transgender Women in the Health Care Setting
Tom Waddell Health Center - San Francisco, CA

In the U.S., transgender women (people who were assigned male at birth but now identify as women) endure pervasive discrimination and harassment. This community also currently faces a serious health crisis, including high rates of HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and depression. Alarmingly, significant evidence indicates that mistreatment and harassment are occurring even in the health care setting, but minimal research has documented the nature, extent, and impact of these experiences. Working with Tom Waddell Health Center, the nation’s first publicly funded provider of transgender health care, Leah will interview transgender women to learn about their negative experiences in the health care setting.


Joanna Sokolowski

Joanna Sokolowski, Santa Cruz
California Coalition of Women Prisoners - Bay Area, CA

Joanna is producing a documentary film which will investigate prison injustice and human rights violations, as well as the profound effects of inequality, invisibility and incarceration on the life course. The film is in collaboration with California Coalition for Women Prisoners, and examines the cyclical pathways to prison, as well as the inherent entrapment of its systems. The film will interrogate the structural and contextual nature of incarceration, examining the stigmatization, dramatic shifts in status, the familial nature of crime, as well as the complex ways individuals narrate their daily lives around systems of power.


Thomas, Hastings
The Marginalized Women's Campaign for Domestic Workers' Rights
Equal Rights Advocates - San Francisco, CA

This year, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, I will work as a summer law clerk for Equal Rights Advocates.  This work will help domestic workers to empower themselves to speak out for their rights as laborers, including their right to be free from violence on the job, their right to work with dignity, their right to occupational health and safety, and their right to receive fair and equal pay for the work that they do. Our goal is to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, currently pending before the California legislature.

Oliver Ting

Oliver Ting, San Diego
Dancing Children in Red-light Districts: Komal Gandhar’s Performance Activism and the Embodied Knowledge of Human Rights
Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee - India

In collaboration with DMSC, a community-based organization for sex workers’ rights, I will explore how the performance activism among local youth in red-light districts challenge the stigma that renders their struggles against human rights violations invisible, and on the other hand how they creatively utilize self-representation as a critical organizing strategy to articulate their collective lived experience. Working with Komal Gandhar, a DMSC-affiliated professional dance and theater group formed by children of sex workers, I hope to expand on the scholarship of the cultural production of localized human rights knowledge for community mobilization and empowerment among youth in red-light areas.

Rosalynn Vega

Rosalynn Vega, Berkeley
A Tale of Two Births: Transnational Health Care in Multiethnic Mexico
Center for the Adolescents of San Miguel de Allende - Mexico

I am compelled to examine shifting notions of family, gender, sexuality and reproduction through the lens of transnational medical practice and new multiethnomedical landscapes.  In addition to joining in the recent discourse on the friction between hegemonic biomedicine and a specific ethnomedical system, I wish to push the question further to examine what are the results of newly-introduced universal care coverage in Mexico, when economic decisions are divorced from medical choice. This project is concerned with social justice and equity, and the tension between the neoliberal patient (characterized by an individualistic subjectivity and freedom of choice) and new politico-medical apparatuses acting upon the body politic (emergent governmental and non-governmental structures and practices scripting how women give birth).  My work critically examines Mexico’s universal health care system, the advent of safe, public childbirth as a citizenship-based right, the relationship between health-oriented NGOs and the Mexican state and transnational ways of knowing gender, health and the body.


Anonymous, Berkeley
Political Subjectivities Among Qianxi Woman Villagers: An Ethnography of Community-Based Mental Health Counseling
Anonymous Organization - China

A disturbing disparity exists in suicide rate in China between the general population and rural, young women. This fellow will conduct an ethnography among young, rural Chinese women who utilize counseling services and community mental health trainings. Her study aims to understand how community-based mental health counseling for these women with psychological difficulties, including risk of suicide, functions as a self-care project that offers routes to political subjectivities as well as unexpected risks for them.


Anonymous, Hastings
Legal Research and Civil Society: Empowering Youth to Make Social Change in Burma
Anonymous Organization - Burma

This fellow will be working in Mandalay, Burma working a locally run non-profit dedicated to empowering youth to advance long term social change and human rights in Burma.  His particular project will include researching gender violence, and child rights under Burmese law, as written and as practiced.  He will draft reports comparing the results to international legal norms.  Additionally, he will help set up a curriculum to promote child rights and prevent gender violence throughout Burma.  He will work with representatives of religious, private, and civic groups to plan education campaigns to address those issues.