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Human Rights Fellows Report on Summer Projects Nov. 12

by Julia Sommer, Public Affairs
posted November 4, 1998

Kids in Papua New Guinea
Anastasia Telesetsky photo
Law student Anastasia Telesetsky used a Human Rights Center summer fellowship to work on the rights of indigenous groups and land use issues in Papua New Guinea. Some of the children she encountered are shown here.

Sex education in Cuba, Cambodian national elections, sustainable development in Papua-New Guinea, and California sweatshops are just some of the thorny issues addressed by last summer's Human Rights Fellows.

Ten Berkeley students received $2,500 each from the campus Human Rights Center to tackle a human rights problem related to their area of study. This is the fifth year of the program.

The students will talk about their adventures and discoveries on Thursday, Nov. 12, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Institute of International Studies conference room.

Anastasia Telesetsky, a law student with an MA in cultural anthropology, went to Papua-New Guinea for six weeks to work with the Center for International Environmental Law on a project concerned with the rights of indigenous groups and land use.

"There's a frontier atmosphere in PNG, with the country basically for sale to oil and mining interests," she says.

Telesetsky worked on sustainable coffee production and initiated plans for chicken farms run by women, who are traditionally barred from independent endeavors in PNG. She has even convinced a Berkeley law professor to sponsor a chicken farm in PNG, once a business plan is written.

Felicia Lester, who graduated from Berkeley in May, went to Cuba for three weeks to work for the National Center for Sex Education. She found that prostitution is increasing as tourism grows, and that the U.S. embargo of Cuba is making it difficult for women to find contraceptives.

Steve Dahlgren, a journalism student, won a fellowship to intern with the Center for Advanced Studies in Cambodia to monitor the July elections and investigate human rights abuses against minority groups. Instead, he found himself writing for the English-language Cambodia Daily about post-election violence, anti-Vietnamese sentiment, and a princess running for office. "The press is surprisingly free in Cambodia," he reports.

Jill Esbenshade stayed closer to home, working with the San Francisco-based Sweatshop Watch, a California coalition working to eliminate exploitation of garment workers. She spent most of the summer in L.A. investigating how and to what extent manufacturers monitor their sub-contractors, where most exploitation of garment workers occurs.

Esbenshade also helped organize a three-day Living Wage Summit Conference on campus, attracting delegates from Nica-ragua, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Canada, the U.S., and Holland.

Harvey Weinstein, associate director of the Human Rights Center and visiting professor of International and Area Studies, coordinates the summer fellowship program.

"These fellowships offer the opportunity to engage with real-world human rights violations in the field," he says. "Confronting the gap between theory and practice is often an eye-opening and challenging experience for the students."

Deadline for applications for Summer 1999 Human Rights Center Fellowships is Feb. 10. For information, call 642-0965.


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