Ithaca; New York — For the pre-law student, DJ and nonprofit founder Elsie Muhirwa — growing up in Rwanda did not only shape her character, but her dreams as well. Since 2016, Rwanda has had the highest number of women in politics.
“Growing up, it was so normal to see women being the boss. I constantly saw women being the heads of governments. I never saw that part of my identity as a barrier until I came to America. It was a complete shock,” said Muhirwa.
However, despite Rwanda having a female-majority parliament, this same power is not reflected within households and family structures. For her, the negative effects of this power imbalance on women and girls is what truly pushed her into the legal field. When discovering the opportunities law school could give her and the doors that could be opened with a Juris Doctorate (JD) title, she decided to go on a pre-law track with a minor in entrepreneurship at Cornell University.
“With that degree, I could represent women who had no voice in African countries. Education speaks for you. Accomplishments speak for you and as an attorney, I can help other women who are silenced. Attorneys in Africa are mainly men and they don’t typically represent women. Especially with bribery being so huge. I want to be there and demand justice,” she said.
On a pre-law track, she plans to blend her interests in social justice with her background in business to go into corporate law after law school. An ideal career for her looks like representing large companies ranging from Fenty to Google, companies that align with her mission and vision before joining the United Nations, specifically the women's rights committee one day.
Glued to the screen, Janai Lesesne couldn’t seem to get her 9-year-old eyes off of the Trayvon Martin trial in 2013.
“The verdict moved me. From that moment on, I knew I had to be a part of the criminal justice system so I could make a difference in this world,” said Lesesne.
Ten years later, she received her acceptance letter to Howard University’s BA/JD Fast Track program, making it possible for her to pursue her attorney dreams in a fraction of the time. For her, the location and curriculum, accompanied by the large number of Black litigation officials birthed at Howard was what sealed the deal for her.The numerous instances of police brutality and Black Lives Matter movement motivated her to strive harder towards her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Growing up in the DMV — the D.C, Maryland and Virginia region — Lesesne wants to be able to represent at-risk juveniles and help the thousands of youth with no guidance. To young girls who are also interested in law, she advises that they, “Shoot for the stars. The world is yours and never take no for an answer. You can do anything that you put your mind to.”
Courtesy of Ammy Diaz
“Si se puede!” were the three words Ammy Diaz and her family chanted as they huddled together to celebrate the first and newly sworn in lawyer in the Diaz family.
For Diaz, watching her older sister navigate law school and reach that level of success inspired her.
“It showed me that I can make it there. Despite all the struggles and the very small number of latina lawyers in America, seeing her reach that point meant that I could as well. There is so much in the world that brings us down, but we just keep saying si se puede. We know how heavy those words are, it traces all the way back to the words our ancestors used when they were pushing for our rights now,” she said.
Wrapping up her first semester at George Washington University, Diaz has gotten to witness firsthand the neverending momentum and political powerhouse of the nation’s capital. From seeing the largest protest for Palestine just outside her dorm window to being interrupted by President Joe Biden’s motorcade on the way to class.
“How can I help my people?” Is what she has been asking herself since first being introduced to the government and the role of lawyers in a third grade civics lesson. Increasing Latinx representation in the legal field, abortion rights and criminal justice reform are just a few of this aspiring judge’s passions. After law school, she plans to build up experience by practicing in the area of finance law before becoming a judge.
These three young women are just a glimpse of the new faces, new talent and new backgrounds that are surfacing in the legal field. With each movement, amidst the injustice and loss, every turn led them to where they are today. The emergence of Gen Z in various industries will bring inevitable reform to our country, and the new turn in attorneys is something to look forward to.
Cherie Animashaun is an author and activist from the Chicagoland area. She is a freshman at Cornell University studying Public Policy. You can follow her on Instagram @her.risingg.
Edited by NaTyshca Pickett