Program Overview

International Women's Human Rights (IWHR) Clinic students engage in cutting edge human rights work under close clinical supervision. The Clinic maintains a diverse docket of projects, providing students broad experience in human rights practice. Current projects are available here. [insert link] Through the clinical seminar and project work, IWHR students develop a sound understanding of international human rights and sharpen lawyering skills necessary for effective law reform-oriented advocacy work applicable in both U.S. and international contexts. IWHR is directed by Professor Cynthia Soohoo, an expert on reproductive rights and human rights in the United States. Professor Soohoo co-teaches the IWHR Clinic with Professor Lisa Davis, an expert on sexual orientation and gender identity and violence against women in post-conflict and humanitarian situations. Suzannah Phillips is the current IWHR Clinic fellow.

Widely recognized for its expertise and contributions to gender jurisprudence and human rights practice, the IWHR Clinic advocates before international and regional human rights bodies and national and local courts and legal institutions. Our projects combat gender discrimination and sexual violence, advance reproductive and sexual rights and economic and social rights, and promote women's participation and empowerment. By addressing problems through the lens of human rights, IWHR students use international human rights law and institutions to challenge and expand rights protections in both domestic and international fora.


Goals and Principles: Education and Advocacy

IWHR represents and collaborates with survivors of violations and activists, contributing legal and gender expertise to address the needs of women in various contexts. We work to develop human rights norms and mechanisms and to hold perpetrators and states accountable for rights violations. IWHR's work is directed to the UN system, regional systems, particularly the Inter-American human rights system, and to applying international human rights in the United States. IWHR provides students a "hands-on" opportunity to develop a broad range of lawyering skills while they engage in creative law reform or cause lawyering involving international human rights. IWHR provides valuable experience for students who wish to pursue careers in international human rights as well as in public interest law in the US as international human rights principles are increasingly relevant to domestic legal work. In addition, a significant portion of IWHR's work involves litigation and advocacy in US courts and institutions. IWHR is offered as a full year clinic with 8 credit hours per semester. IWHR includes a bi-weekly seminar in which we teach skills relevant to both international and domestic work. The seminar provides an overview of human rights law and forums and examines theory, legal developments and advocacy possibilities for integrating a gender perspective into human rights frameworks. The majority of students' time is devoted to working on cases and advocacy projects, which involve individual work and meetings with supervisors in project teams. Different project experiences are shared and discussed in periodic "rounds."

IWHR works to develop international law "from the ground up." We are an active part of the international women's human rights movement, but our projects focus on working with women's rights activists on the domestic level in the US and abroad. Some of our work involves representation of individual clients in litigation contexts, but many of projects are collaborations with local lawyers, activists and communities. This provides students an opportunity for interaction with other advocates in the field, expands the resources available for this work and, often, contributes to enhancing their knowledge and capacity to engage in international women's human rights concepts and advocacy.

IWHR also devotes a significant portion of its resources to implementing international human rights in US jurisprudence and policy-making. This provides students an opportunity to practice in US judicial and legislative processes as well as understand the legal basis and means for applying international human rights domestically. The seminar provides an opportunity for comparing US constitutional interpretations with international human rights principles and some projects increasingly involve litigation of human rights concerns in US courts.


Typical Student Practice

The two semesters of the IWHR Clinic offer students a number of work options from which to choose. In the course of a year, students work directly on one or m