Violet Odala (LL.M. Class of 2009) has won the American University Washington College of Law's annual Human Rights Award, which she will receive in May 2011 in Washington, D.C. Odala, originally from Malawi, won the award based on her human rights essay entitled, “The Spectrum for Child Justice in the International Framework: From ‘Reclaiming the Deliquent Child’ to Restorative Justice.” Read more about Odala's award in the Nyasa Times.
Odala’s profile in Fall 2008 Perspectives, by Elizabeth Larsen:
Minneapolis is a long way from Violet Odala’s native Malawi. "It’s been a real change of environment," she says. "Malawi is one of the least-developed nations in the world. We don’t have many resources." Knowing that so many people in her country have to get by on so little is part of what inspired Odala, 33, to pursue a career in law.
A job working for a human rights organization in Malawi took her into villages where she helped educate people about their rights. "I could feel the impact that it had," she says. From there, Odala earned an LL.B. from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and an LL.M. in human rights law from the University of Nottingham in England.
When her husband moved to Minnesota to get a Ph.D. from Luther Seminary, Odala hoped to follow to work on an LL.M. "I had encountered the University of Minnesota a lot when doing online research for inter-national human rights," she says. I always aspired to come and study here." Her wish was granted when she received a tuition scholarship from the University.
Now, with a few months of studying under her belt, she is adjusting to the Socratic method—an approach that’s not used in Malawi. "Back home, you know that the lecturer will feed you the information," she says. "So you could sometimes get away with not reading before class. But here it’s not possible. I’m reading much more than I did. It gets you engaged in the course."
Still, the classroom environment can be a challenge. "Sometimes it is a bit hard for me in a big class because it’s not so easy for me to grasp what everyone is saying, especially when they are speaking in low voices."
English is the official language of Malawi, so Odala is used to studying in English, but she speaks Chichewa, the country’s national language, with her friends and family. "I do struggle with homesickness," she says. "Sometimes you just want to speak your language and talk to someone who is from home."