New Perimeter

Our Global Pro Bono Initiative
Kristin Franceschi

Kristin Franceschi

Partner, Baltimore

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1. What inspired you during the project?

Hands down, what inspired me the most during the project was the interaction with the women lawyer trainees. 

Nepal is a country not yet recovered from the impact of the 2015 earthquake.  It is finding its way politically after the adoption, also in 2015, of a new constitution, one that explicitly grants rights to women.  It is also a traditional country in many respects, as we learned from talking to the women. As part of the most recent training, to ensure that trainees would not primarily be from the Kathmandu area, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) paid for the travel and lodging expenses of women lawyers from Nepal’s more rural areas.  We learned that, especially in rural areas, arranged marriages are common, and there are issues of abuse of women and children.  We listened to the stories the women lawyers from these areas told about their clients, who are often women in distress.  We realized that most of the legal services the Nepali women lawyers were offering to those facing gender-based violence were for no or little compensation, though the women lawyers themselves could barely afford to grant that discount.  This brief story may help explain the impact of having these women from more remote areas in the training: I asked one how she got to Kathmandu and, rather than telling me about a plane ride, as I expected, she told me about a 13-hour bus ride. 

As women lawyers in the United States and other Western countries, we tend to take for granted both where we fit in our society and the opportunities presented to us.  Despite what its constitution says, Nepal is still struggling to implement rights for women.  At the closing ceremony, we also were lucky enough to have, in attendance as speakers, two justices of the Nepal Supreme Court, both women, including one who was the Chief Justice.  It was awesome to watch the excitement of the trainees to meet these women, who are truly role models for women all through Nepal.   In a very real sense, we too served as role models for them.  During breaks and meals together we were asked many questions about life in our countries, including questions about jobs and career opportunities and more mundane topics such as child care. It was exciting to share our stories and experiences.

2. What was the most fulfilling aspect of the work?

Closely related to what I found to be the most inspiring aspect of our training in Kathmandu was what I found to be most fulfilling: teaching students who were eager to learn and to take advantage of this opportunity given to them.  We went through many topics, ranging from intellectual property law to ethics to arbitration, and each and every one of the women trainees were there on time and on task, soaking up the information.  The women were determined to take the most away from the training. Women from the rural areas were particularly energized to fill their roles as points of light to other women and children in their community, while at the same time expanding their knowledge of substantive legal topics.  The women were, without exception, not only motivated but bright, participating readily in the sessions, or at least once the initial jitters and shyness faded away.  I cannot say often enough how inspiring, energizing and fulfilling it was for me to spend a week with these women trainees.

3. What one word describes your New Perimeter trip?

If I had to select a single word to describe the New Perimeter trip to Kathmandu, Nepal it would be “photobomb.”  A close runner up, however, would be “selfie.”  During all of the breaks, we were all approached by the women trainees for pictures with them.  The picture would start with one trainee and a trainer, then more trainees would get in the picture, who would invite more trainers, more trainees would squeeze in…  Or the same would happen with a selfie being taken by one trainee with a trainer.  Fortunately my arms are very long, so we could accommodate many people in the pictures! The photobombs and selfies embodied the welcoming excitement and warmth of the trainees and the remarkable bonding that happened there.  I gained many new Facebook friends. Thinking about all the photobombs makes me smile even today, a couple months after my return.  The trip was simply awesome.  I would recommend to anyone to participate in a New Perimeter trip.  You give much of your time and energy, but you get more back in return.

I cannot say often enough how inspiring, energizing and fulfilling it was for me to spend a week with these women trainees.”

Women's advancement