Kimberley Motley didn’t go outside the United States until 2008. That’s when she learned about a State Department program to train and mentor lawyers in Afghanistan. A former Mrs. Wisconsin beauty pageant winner, Motley saw an opportunity to make a difference and was soon on her way to Kabul.
As the first foreign lawyer in Afghanistan, Motley started out representing imprisoned Westerners who lacked access to due process. She then began to take on the cases of Afghan women and girls facing discrimination and violence — and she hasn’t lost one since.
“The laws are ours, and no matter what your ethnicity, nationality, gender, race, they belong to us, and fighting for justice is not an act of insanity.”
In a recent case, a 6-year-old girl was promised in marriage to settle a family debt. Her fate had been decided in a jirga, or traditional tribal council. Motley organized a second jirga that annulled the engagement. She also convinced the men in that jirga to agree to never sell their own daughters, to send their daughters to school, and to let their daughters decide for themselves whom they will marry.
Motley’s story is one of many we celebrate on Human Rights Day, which the world marks every year on December 10. It is also a reminder that more needs to be done so that everyone enjoys the rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (available in over 300 languages).
You don’t have to be a lawyer or fly halfway around the world to fight for justice. You just need passion and a few tools and tips to help advance human rights in your community. Tweet about a human rights issue you feel is important using #rights365.