Unika Shrestha '10 Explores Legal Advocacy

Posted: November 11, 2009

By Madgalena Georgieva '10

In the Mount Holyoke tradition of embracing the unknown, Unika Shrestha '10 jumped into the new-to-her world of legal advocacy this summer. She took on a ten-week internship in New York City at the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global legal organization advocating for women’s reproductive rights.

"I wasn't really familiar with reproductive rights. I got a crash course over the summer," said Shrestha, a Nepal native who applied for the internship through the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program at nearby Hampshire College, which, like Mount Holyoke, belongs to the Five College Consortium.

Shrestha, an economics major with a politics minor, worked specifically for the center's international legal program that partners with advocacy organizations worldwide. With one of the partners located in Nepal, Shrestha became an indispensable part of the team as she used her native language skills to translate legal documents from Nepali.

"By translating Nepali documents and doing crucial research, I felt I was really contributing to the organization," Shrestha said.

"I got a taste of what it is to work in a demanding office environment," she added. One of her research projects, unsafe abortion as a cause of maternal mortality in the Philippines, highly intrigued Shrestha, and she decided to apply an economic model to the subject. Now she is developing her work into a senior thesis.

Although the center introduced Shrestha to the heavy workload of legal advocacy, it also offered her inspiration and fun with its staff lunches, kickball games, and karaoke nights.

In her off hours, Shrestha found a similarly nurturing environment, thanks to Sunny Park Suh '91. Through alumnae networking, Shrestha contacted Suh, who was happy to house the student for the summer. Shrestha joined Suh's family in Larchmont, New York, and fell in love with her eight-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. She became part of the family, attending dinners, BBQs, and Mount Holyoke alumnae events.

Related Links:

Economics at MHC

Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program

Center for Reproductive Rights