Scholarship and activism with a global reach

July 10, 2014 11:00 AM

Aidan Smith

Continuing her efforts to expand international discussions of women in the judiciary, Newcomb College Institute director Sally J. Kenney traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia, recently to help women judges in the Eurasian country develop a gender-focused training program.

Sally Kenney addresses a conference of women judges in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Sally J. Kenney leads a workshop for women judges in Tbilisi, Georgia, as part of the Judicial Independence and Legal Empowerment Project. (Photo from Inga Todria)

Kenney’s work was part of a project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Program, which partnered with the Judicial Independence and Legal Empowerment Project of the East-West Management Institute to develop a gender-specific curriculum for all new judges as part of their standard education.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with judges, lawyers and political leaders to help diversify the judiciary,” said Kenney, who also is a political science professor at Tulane University. “Seeing one’s scholarly arguments take hold and change practice is one of the most gratifying experiences a scholar can have.”

Kenney’s book, Gender and Justice: Why Women in the Judiciary Really Matter, was translated into Georgian before her visit. Research reveals that as of 2014, half of Georgian judges are women but they are concentrated in the lower courts. They are underrepresented or absent from the highest appellate courts, the governing committees and leadership positions.

A group of Georgian women judges hatched the idea of bringing Kenney to Tbilisi when they met her last year in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the National Association of Women Judges, which Kenney helped to organize. While in the Eurasian nation, Kenney also met with USAID officials and U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland.

This is not the first international training that Kenney conducted. In January, she spoke to the Kenyan Association of Women Judges about gender equity in their nation. Her travels are not limited to the far-flung places like Nairobi and Tbilisi — she also was a keynote lecturer at the North Dakota Bar Association’s annual meeting in Fargo, N.D., and will be speaking at the 8th Circuit Judicial Conference in Omaha, Neb., later this summer.

Aidan Smith is external affairs officer for the Newcomb College Institute.

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