Since 1983, the Women’s Law & Public Policy Fellowship Program (WLPPFP) has enabled a diverse group of public interest lawyers from across the United States to gain invaluable experience advancing women’s rights.
Our U.S. Fellows work in Washington, D.C., with a variety of organizations involved in legal and policy issues affecting women, such as domestic violence, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, immigration, education, health care, homelessness, poverty, disability rights, civil rights, HIV/AIDS, and international women’s human rights.
The Fellows participate in educational programming such as professional development trainings and seminars on current women’s legal issues organized by WLPPFP, and they may also audit Georgetown University Law Center courses related to women’s issues. Over 270 Fellows have participated in WLPPFP working at over 50 organizations on these crucial women’s rights issues.
In 1993, WLPPFP expanded to include women’s human rights lawyers from Africa through the Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa (LAWA) Program. The LAWA Program has welcomed women’s rights advocates from Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, as well as one fellow from Afghanistan.
The LAWA Fellows earn a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree focusing on international women’s human rights from the Georgetown University Law Center and complete a major graduate legal research paper addressing a significant women’s rights issue in their country applying international human rights instruments and standards. Upon graduation, they then have the opportunity to work in a challenging internship assignment for several months to gain practical, hands-on experience advocating for women’s rights with an organization in Washington, D.C. Upon completion of the program, the LAWA Fellows return home to continue advancing women’s human rights in their home countries.
Although each fellowship experience is unique, all of our fellows learn together about substantive women’s rights issues, explore a multitude of career paths through which they can advocate for women’s equality, and develop their advocacy skills through seminars, trainings, networking events and other activities provided by WLPPFP.
The LAWA Fellows and US Fellows participate in all WLPPFP programming together, and the inter-cultural dialogue and exchange of ideas and strategies between the US and LAWA Fellows have proven to be invaluable and enriching features of the fellowship program for all of the participants. WLPPFP provides educational opportunities for our Fellows throughout the year, providing various professional development training sessions, women’s rights seminars and networking programs.
For example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, who currently serves as the US Congresswoman for the District of Columbia, hosts lunch with the Fellows each year on Capitol Hill to share with them her advocacy on behalf of the residents of Washington, D.C. and her long history championing the rights of women and minorities. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has invited the Fellows to have tea with her at the US Supreme Court to discuss the current and historical status of women’s rights within the United States and to share with them stories about her experiences as a female lawyer and associate justice.
WLPPFP provides training on topics such as legislative advocacy, communication and public speaking skills, and fundraising. The Fellows also benefit from the fact that they are located in Washington, D.C. by attending US Supreme Court arguments and Congressional briefings on women’s issues. WLPPFP also provides extensive networking opportunities, such as with its active Board and its extensive alumnae community, enabling its Fellows to draw upon expanded legal resources upon completion of the Fellowship.
The goals of the US and LAWA Fellowships are multifaceted:
- To advance the rights and well-being of women and their families through legal advocacy, research, outreach and education;
- To allow public interest organizations to benefit from skilled legal assistance; and
- To enable a diverse group of public interest lawyers to gain experience working on and learning about a wide range of women’s issues, in order to provide them with the training and preparation necessary to become effective leaders in promoting women’s rights and social justice. Our alumni continue to achieve great strides for women and girls throughout their careers, multiplying the return on the investment in their Fellowship year many times over.