Training Young Women in the
Land of a Thousand Hills


Over the last two years, we have had the opportunity to work on developing and delivering a training project for the Akilah Institute in Kigali, Rwanda aimed at helping young women in Rwanda protect themselves from threats of violence, harassment and trafficking. Our team of female DLA Piper lawyers was project managed by Crystal Doyle of New Perimeter  and included Anne Pachciarek (Partner, Chicago), Margaret Keane (Partner, San Francisco), Victoria Richter (Of Counsel, Chicago) and Georgia Jolink (Associate, Austin). 

Akilah is a three-year all-women college offering degrees in hospitality, business management and information services. During its first ten years, Akilah has changed the lives of many young women in Rwanda. In 2017, Anne Pachciarek introduced Akilah to Lisa Dewey, the Director of New Perimeter. 

Our team spent several hundred hours preparing for this training. We researched and worked closely with our Rwandan relationship firm, Equity Juris Chambers, to prepare legally and culturally relevant materials for the sexual harassment and anti-human trafficking trainings. Over this time, we updated the training materials, taking into account the changing legal landscape in Rwanda and other developments, such as the #metoo and #timesup movements globally. 

This work culminated in Anne, Victoria, Georgia and Crystal attending and co-presenting the trainings at Akilah’s Kigali campus from October 12-15, 2019. We had an intensive, but truly rewarding, schedule during which we presented 17 different training sessions to 1,200 students,  faculty, and staff at Akilah. 

The training focused on discrimination, harassment, violence and human trafficking. We included scenarios the students and teachers might face and the legal issues that might result from such scenarios. As the training sessions progressed and the participants got used to our interactive style of teaching, the exercises and debates became more and more collaborative. We also discussed various ways that the students and teachers could mitigate the risks of discrimination, harassment, violence and human trafficking. We gave the students practical tips on how to best protect themselves and focused on how the college could unite as a community on these issues. We hoped to empower the students and protect them from such risks as they finish their studies and prepare to enter the workforce. 

To say this experience was life-changing would not be an exaggeration. Being in Kigali for the training course exceeded our expectations in every respect. What started out as a project to educate others in turn taught us so much. In particular, we learned first-hand about the need for continuing education to tackle violence, harassment and human trafficking. The project shone a light on the truly global nature of these issues.  

The training also allowed us to interact with amazing young women who impressed us with their engagement level and insightful questions and pushed us to be at our best while presenting. At the conclusion of the trainings, it was clear that the students were prepared to advocate for themselves, each other and their greater communities.  We look forward to continuing our work with the Akilah Institute and empowering their promising young students to advocate for and protect themselves from sexual harassment, discrimination, and human trafficking.