I have had the pleasure of working for Natural Justice as part of the International and Comparative Law and Legal Practice Fellowship Program of Suffolk University Law School. Natural Justice’s mandate – promoting environmental justice and human rights for indigenous peoples and local communities – embodies the goals for which I have always looked as a future attorney. As a student entering the third year of law school, Natural Justice has provided me with the opportunity to understand the work around securing traditional resource rights for the Khoi-San communities. During my stay at Natural Justice I was able to work closely with Lesle Jansen who is the head of the Governance of Lands & Natural Resource Programme, who showed me the nuances of community lawyering and explained to me the intricacies of working with indigenous peoples in the South African region.
I worked on a variety of different topics, one being the issue of accessing an industry-wide benefit sharing agreement for the use of genetic resources pertaining to the rooibos plant. I was also able to do extensive research and writing on Small-Scale Fisheries and how customary law can be used to help access community-based fishing rights for indigenous peoples who use marine resources for their subsistence. During my stay, I was also able to visit to Bwabwata National park in Namibia, where I was able to work closely with the Khwe indigenous people. It was an honor to represent Natural Justice in pushing for the launch of their community protocol. If the launch is successful it will be the first in the country of Namibia to be in existence. I was very happy to be involved in such powerful advocacy work.
Natural Justice is a small team filled with a very determined group of people who strive to diligently move past the deep disruption many African indigenous peoples and local communities has endured over the course of time. Though my time at Natural Justice was short, I have left with a deeper understanding of environmental justice and new passion to continue zealous advocacy for indigenous peoples.