Finding a career in human rights is often a difficult prospect. For Rosyln
Park, it has been a process guided by a desire to help others, but defined
by the steps along the way: “I never thought I’d be going to law school.
As an undergraduate, I thought I wanted to go to medical school. Only after
graduating did these interests I’d been developing start to develop into
A Botany major at the University of Wisconsin, Park spent much of her time volunteering for Amnesty International. It was working with Amnesty that sparked an interest in human rights and international law. After graduating in 1998, Park applied for the Amnesty International Joint Human Rights Summer Program at American University. “Looking back, I took sort of a fatalistic approach to it. I decided that if I got into the program, I would drop my medical school plans and look for a human rights related position,” recalled Park.
She received a full scholarship for the program. A mentor at American University advised Park that applying for law school would open many options in the field of human rights. Park chose the University of Minnesota because of its strong human rights program and by the time she arrived at the University, she knew that human rights advocacy would be her path.
After her second year in law school, Park applied for an Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellowship. Park had been working on issues of human trafficking with Prof. David Weissbrodt, and he put her in touch with Anti-Slavery International, a non-profit organization based in London, England that works with similar issues. She received a 2001 Fellowship and spent 12 weeks as an intern for the London organization.
“My Fellowship was a great opportunity to work in Europe and see how they handle international policy and issues. Anti-Slavery International’s work encompasses a huge range of trafficking issues. I looked at the international legal obligation to stop trafficking, specifically in India and Sudan. I studied the reparations and rehabilitation available to child victims of trafficking. Exploring these issues in a European context was really valuable.”
After returning and graduating from law school in 2002, Park began looking for a human rights career in the Twin Cities community. She had taken a class taught by Robin Phillips (director of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights) while in law school and inquired about the possibility of working for the local human rights organization. Phillips and Park created a new staff attorney position to work with several Minnesota Advocate programs.
“One of the programs I work with is the Women’s Human Rights Program, examining the four corners of violence against women: sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence and trafficking of persons. I’m in charge of the country page section of our website, where we have summaries of international laws and treaties that pertain to women’s rights in twenty-nine central and Eastern European nations,” said Park.
She also organizes Minnesota Advocates’ legislative lobbying to maintain the abolition of the death penalty in Minnesota. When the governor called for a reinstatement of the death penalty during the last state legislative session, Minnesota Advocates coordinated the list of witnesses to testify against the death penalty and worked with other local anti-death penalty groups. Park continues to facilitate continuing legal education programs on death penalty issues.
The final project that Park is associated with is the Human Rights Monitoring Program: “We work with Sierra Leone and Peru, but my focus is Sierra Leone. I was there in May doing some fact finding on the transitional justice process. We did many interviews and are now writing those into a formal report.”
As Park reflected on the path that has led her to Minnesota Advocates, she was thankful for the opportunity to spend so much time studying these issues: “When I was an undergraduate, I didn’t understand the specifics of women’s rights. I thought, ‘human rights are important for all people, what need is there for this focus?’ But during law school, I realized that women suffer particular kinds of human rights abuses. It’s a really unique area of human rights to work in, and women in many countries don’t have the same status as men and don’t have the same opportunities.”
Park’s career has led her to believe that not only is human rights advocacy an interesting career path, it is an integral issue in the global community, one that every person should strive to incorporate into their profession: “I think that everyone has a responsibility to promote human rights not only in their own actions, but to make sure people around them are also working for change. It becomes a question of whether people have the initiative to implement that change.”
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