Visiting practitioner fellow engages faculty, staff, and students around global human rights advocacy

April 12, 2023

Monalisa, an Indian human rights attorney and expert on global human trafficking joined the Center for Social Concerns and the Higgins Labor Program in March as a weeklong practitioner in residence. But this was a bit of a homecoming. Monalisa graduated from Notre Dame Law in 2018. 

Sponsored by Imago Dei at Notre Dame, an action-oriented organization started by Notre Dame alums fighting to end human trafficking, Monalisa spent her week at the Center meeting with students and colleagues from across campus eager to learn more about global human trafficking and labor issues. She noted that many otherwise well-informed people still don’t know how widespread and serious a problem human trafficking is, so during her visit she focused on communicating the global extent of the problem as well as the complex and varied legal approaches used to address it. 

Monalisa is also no stranger to the Center for Social Concerns. She started coming to Labor Cafés at the Center for the brownies when she was a student and ended up speaking at several as a student panelist. Her interest in law and human rights began when she was an undergraduate at the National Law University in Delhi. “I grew up in an area that was very lawless and had a lot of issues,” she explains. “I was surprised when I went to college to see a place where the law was taken seriously.” 

She started doing advocacy projects around campus, specifically negotiating for campus custodial workers. When she saw that the work could be successful, it sparked her interest in a career in law. As someone addressing a global array of legal issues, Monalisa spends a lot of time researching her cases, collecting statements from impacted individuals, and learning about similar cases around the world, adapting them to the context of different legal systems. 

While the scope of the issues Monalisa works with seems immense, she is quick to note that this way of thinking is what prohibits change. “Being overwhelmed by the big picture is how people discourage others from thinking of actionable solutions. The world is full of well-meaning people who just don’t know what they can do,” she explains. Instead, she encourages people to learn more about human rights issues and what they can do about them. “On any given day, I see where these issues are present in my life and question what I can do. Any small change is a win.”  

Monalisa’s short visit was truly inspiring and energizing  to all the faculty, students, staff and community members with whom she engaged. As we hope the residency of any practitioner will, we expect it to generate significant future opportunities for the Center and the Higgins labor program.