As a young woman growing up in the United States, I have been blessed with the ability to pursue the educational and professional endeavors I desire. Despite this freedom, there remains significant work to be done in the United States to truly empower women, and even more work to do internationally. As a current law student, I believe that an important responsibility of becoming a lawyer is using my legal skills to benefit the wider community and ensure that the underserved have access to justice. Earlier this year, along with seven other students participating in Penn Law’s Pan-Africa Project, I ventured to Accra, Ghana for an annual pro bono legal service project.
While in Accra, my fellow law students and I worked with the Legal Resource Center on Violence Against Women (LRC), a non-governmental organization that is committed to law, justice and development in Ghana. The LRC works to ensure that every human being lives in dignity and believes that human rights are an essential tool in that vision. During our spring break, we worked with the LRC to prepare a legal resource handbook and workshops to train women from different rural villages throughout the country. These women, some of whom traveled hours to meet us, volunteered their time to become legal literacy volunteers so that they could be a voice for other women in their villages. We conducted workshops to educate the women about relevant Ghanaian law, including understanding the court system, alternative dispute resolution, property law, children’s rights, and marital rights. Throughout the presentation, I saw that the women eagerly took notes. Their excitement was evident when they energetically asked questions on each topic. As the women practiced how they would disseminate the information through activities we prepared, I could see how grateful they were to be able to serve as advocates for themselves and other women in their villages.
Overall, it was an extremely rewarding experience to have the opportunity to equip these women with the knowledge and tools they needed to help empower other women like themselves. These women now offer guidance and insight to women who otherwise would not have the means or ability to seek any legal advice. Their determination and enthusiasm to help others truly highlighted for me the importance of giving back whenever possible. We each have the ability to help others learn, grow, and become more effective in their personal and professional endeavors. Together, citizens around the world from all backgrounds can work toward better futures for all.
There are many opportunities, whether domestically or internationally, to get involved and empower other women. What are other ways to support women’s empowerment?

Janelle was a mentor with SWSG from 2007-2011 at Carnegie Mellon University. She is a current JD/MBE (Bioethics) student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.