Canadian Lawyer Volunteers in Myanmar


People working at a shared table

As a lawyer who dedicated her career to working with non-profit organizations, Kim Hawkins is experienced in working with women who have experienced violence. She is currently the Executive Director for Rise Women’s Legal Centre, a new non-profit in Vancouver that supports upper year law students from the University of British Columbia in delivering free legal services to low income women. Recently, Kim Hawkins volunteered with a similar organization in Myanmar. In this article, she shares her experience.

In August 2017 I embarked on a short-term international exchange organized by Cuso International to share legal knowledge about violence against women and girls.

My counterpart in Myanmar, Aye Mon Thu, is the Director of the Dawei Pro Bono Lawyer’s Network (DPLN), an organization based in Dawei that specializes in environmental law and cases involving women and children. One of DPLN’s goals is to increase its work in addressing violence against women and girls.

Since my organization is also new and has done a lot of work in the last two years to develop our internal procedures and structure, I was able to share many forms and precedents that we use in our legal clinic with DPLN, as well as tools and information developed in Canada for safety planning. The information in these materials needs to be adapted for the local culture and translated, but I know from my own recent experience that when you’re starting out if can be really helpful to be given examples of what other people are doing as a jumping off point. I could always tell when something was going to be useful because Aye’s eyes would light up, and she would say: “this needs to be translated immediately!”

One of the most rewarding parts of opening Rise has been having the opportunity to develop supportive relationships with other women-serving organizations in my community. It has been so exciting to open our network to include DPLN in Myanmar. One thing that I know for sure is that women’s organizations do their best work when we work together to change attitudes and support each other’s work.

The goal is to have Aye visit us next at Rise. So many people in Vancouver are looking forward to meeting her when she comes to Vancouver to share knowledge and experiences.