Karen Tanenbaum EJF Report

The 2010 EJF Fellows


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Equal Justice Foundation Report - Karen Tanenbaum

Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

No A/C, no problem” was one of the first things I heard from my new internship coordinator at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in New Delhi, India. At the time I was relieved, thinking he was also eager to get my broken bedroom A/C window unit back into action to combat the 110-20 degree heat. Until, that is, I realized he was referring to the fact that much of Delhi functioned on no A/C and so I should have ‘no problem’ functioning without it, either.


After some cajoling and polite persistence on my part, he did eventually relent and set me up with an A/C repairman 2 or 3 days later. He may even have just been testing me. This initial dilemma, though, in many ways represents much of my 2½ months in India; my surroundings would offer a series of seemingly insurmountable challenges or setbacks, and then would leave me to my own devices to figure out just how to navigate them. As challenging as the heat, poverty, and general chaos of Delhi was, though, I will always be forever beholden to the experience.


This summer offered me the opportunity to live and work in one of the biggest cities in one of the fastest-growing countries in the world, and my internship offered me the chance to really feel like I was a part of it. I lived and worked with other student interns from Switzerland, Latvia, and Canada, and also became a part of the culturally rich lives of my Indian neighbors and co-workers. Through my internship I learned more about the history and legal pulse of one of the world’s largest democracies, visiting local courthouses and working with local human rights attorneys to promote my organization’s human rights policies and goals. I saw first-hand the effects of drastic inequity, and saw a country desperately grappling to bridge that gap.


Because CHRI is an international organization that works with a number of Commonwealth countries beyond India, I also had the opportunity to learn about human rights progress in other regions of the world. I worked on the East Africa Justice Project, which enabled me to analyze legislation in countries like Uganda and Kenya to see if it complied with international standards and local constitutions. I also had the opportunity to write articles for publication in both CHRI’s newsletter and in different Kenyan newspapers highlighting my findings. I worked under experienced local and international attorneys, and gained insight on both life and the legal profession along the way.


The experience, which has shaped me in innumerable ways both personally and professionally, would not have been possible without funding from the Equal Justice Foundation. EJF’s contribution has enabled me to further shape my goals as a future attorney, and has further strengthened my commitment to exploring the field of human rights and international law.