Chi Adanna Mgbako, clinical professor of law and director of the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School, has been named the 2017 recipient of the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Clinical Legal Education’s M. Shanara Gilbert Award.
One of the most prestigious honors available to a clinical professor of law, the M. Shanara Gilbert Award recognizes a professor in the first decade of her clinical career for commitment to teaching and social justice, in Mgbako’s case exemplified by her domestic and international human rights work with the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice.
In their nomination of Mgbako for the award, Professor Leah Hill, associate dean of experiential education, and Professor Michael W. Martin, director of clinical programs, praised Mgbako for “her passionate, decade-long commitment to clinical teaching, activist-scholarship, and human rights advocacy throughout the world.”
Mgbako’s clinical work focuses on criminal justice reform, women’s rights and gender justice, and access to justice, with a strong focus on the harmful effects of the carceral state in the lives of sex workers and low-income people of color. In her career at Fordham, Mgbako has worked with students on over 40 human rights clinical projects in partnership with grassroots human rights organizations in countries as diverse as Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Malawi, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and the United States.
Under Mgbako’s direction, the clinic has worked on human rights trainings on women and HIV/AIDS, female genital cutting, and LGBT refugee rights; human rights reports on access to safe abortion, police abuse of marginalized communities, and employment discrimination against transgender people; mobile legal aid clinics in rural communities; legal research for public interest lawsuits challenging the forced HIV testing of sex workers; claims to the United Nations on behalf of arbitrarily detained prisoners; shadow reports to international human rights bodies documenting abuses against African sex workers; and consultancy work for community-based paralegal programs.
Mgbako is the author of To Live Freely in This World: Sex Worker Activism in Africa, published by New York University Press in 2016. In addition to publishing widely in the academic press, including the Harvard Human Rights Journal, Yale Journal of International Affairs, and Georgetown Journal of International Law, Mgbako has also helped to raise awareness of the issues confronted in her clinical work by contributing op-eds to media outlets such as The International New York Times, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and The Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” politics blog.
In a nomination letter from Mgbako’s former and current students, they praised her as a role-model who has opened their eyes “to a new way of understanding and thinking about the world as a whole” and “a remarkable scholar-teacher-practitioner who has found a way to leverage these three roles to make a meaningful and tangible impact on advancing the cause of human rights and social justice.”
The AALS Section on Clinical Legal Education presented Mgbako with the M. Shanara Gilbert Award at the Clinical Legal Education Conference in Denver on May 7.