Author Archives: Krystle Fernandez

Gender Sensitivity in the Philippines

We arrived in Siquijor on Monday, a nearby island. We were speaking at a conference at Siquijor State College. The conference, “Gender Sensitivity and Understanding Women and Girl’s Rights” was really the first of its kind for the college, and even for the region. One of the staff members was telling us during the lunch break that they haven’t had a conversation like this at their school before. Talking about domestic violence, trafficking, sexual harassment and women’s rights should not be something that is not talked about – anywhere. 

The students obviously had questions about these topics, and many students wrote their questions down to be read aloud during the open forum. One girl asked about filing a law suit against her boyfriend for contracting an STD from him. Another student asked whether homosexual males are often trafficked. They had many questions about why trafficking happens, what is considered sexual assault, and what the resources are for trafficking victims. There was not a shortage of good questions to answer and expand on. 

During lunch we had the conversation that just because people aren’t already talking about these things doesn’t mean they’re not happening. These students may not be hearing about sexual harassment in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening, As statistics would go, many students in the room probably come from a home where violence is present. For them to hear about the laws that protect them is important, empowering even.   

To stand in an auditorium on the other side of the world and talk about these issues certainly provides a global perspective on gender issues. No country  is alone in combatting these crimes – all too often targeted at women. Women and men both need to take responsibility for these outcomes and realize that until we combat these crimes together, unified as a people, then there will also be gender biases and a skewed victim pool. 

The conference was incredibly successful, and we were so honored to participate.

Similar and Different

Come to the other side of the world, literally, and you just might realize that law students come from a similar mold. Granted, Americans might tip the sarcasm scale slightly more than Filipinos, but you’d also be surprised how much we have in common.

We attended a law school “Acquaintance Party” this past weekend, and we were surprised both by our similarities and our differences. Here, law school is 4 years. Rough, I know. So, each year considers themselves a “batch.” Each batch was responsible for some sort of performance as “intermission” for the evening. The 1Ls did a sort of model walk and introduction of each student, the 2L girls did a Bollywood number while the 2L guys danced to Bruno Mars and stripped down to their boxers, no joke. Oh, and did I mention that law school faculty and staff were also at this party? Don’t worry, they thought this was hilarious.

The 3Ls and 4Ls both shot a video that they played, with the 4Ls singing “Let’s Cram” to the tune of Gaga’s “Let’s Dance.” Written and (performed first by students at NYU). It really was funny.

The evening concluded with a host of interesting games that honestly, law students at our school wouldn’t likely play with our professors in the room. Crude and vulgar, but wildly entertaining. Students and professors were equally dying of laughter.

The law students here have been more than welcoming, quick to make jokes about stress, alcohol, studying and briefs. Felicia and I will be giving a lecture this evening on our law school experience, and honestly, I think the students will hate us when they learn that our studies are only for 3 years, and with about half of the requirements of their schooling. They are required to take between 18 and 20 credits each semester, and every class is required. From taxation to commercial litigation, they take every subject in preparation for their bar exam, which nationally has about a 30% passage rate. Not too promising.

We continue to enjoy our time here. We have met many wonderful people curious about our studies and our anti-trafficking experience. We will be attending a conference in the next few days on gender issues here in the Philippines – issues none too foreign to Arizona and the U.S.

The more people we meet the more we realize we have in common. They always ask us, “Is domestic violence a problem in the U.S.?” “What about trafficking?” Yes and yes. These are global issues, and we are all working to better educate the community, to work toward prevention and to prosecute the offenders. It’s nice to know that oceans apart, we are striving for the same things.

Assessing the Situation

When spending time in a new place with a new culture, it’s best to spend some time being an observer, before jumping in with ideas and suggestions. You have to understand the people, the problems facing them, and the remedies they’ve attempted in order to offer any sort of suggestion of your own – or else, who are we as outsiders to interject or insist we have the answer?

Thus, we’ve spent the last few days trying to take things in, trying to hear from those on the front lines, judges, prosecutors, victim advocates, to understand what they’re dealing with. They might learn a few things from us, but we will learn a great deal from them in the process.

The judicial system here requires a great deal of patience. Months could pass between each stage of pre-trial and trial. Months that can lead to exhaustion of everyone involved, and even witness bribery, fright, and manipulation. The attorneys that we’ve talked to have done their best to work inside this system. They understand the importance of victim advocates in witness fatigue, the importance of a constant encouragement and supporter who will go with them through this lengthy process and prompt them to continue.

Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (G-WAVE) is hard at work here in a society that has yet to realize that women too have rights, and need protection until such equality is realized. We met a Family Court Judge yesterday, one of two in the province, that knows all too well the difficulties facing women in this society. She told us a few stories from her years here as a prosecutor, handling many disturbing and emotional rape cases, cases where young girls were often raped or molested by their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and other family members. She said that men here seem “sex-crazed” and they are dealing with the aftermath of this.

We have already been in the courtroom a few times for different stages of rape cases. Selecting photos for evidence, the pre-trial hearing where evidence was being submitted, what was supposed to be the direct examination of the victim but was postponed, again.

This morning we sifted through affidavits of an ongoing trafficking case which has yet to bring the accused to justice. Time has been an influence, tampered evidence, and witness bribery has kept this case from the fair trial it deserves. The system here has no juries, so a judge is left to weigh the evidence singlehandedly and there are definitely some judges more partial to males than others.

Tomorrow we will assist in getting some new photos to submit for evidence. A rape that took place in a shrouded area, hard to photograph. We will also be giving a lecture at a local college on the issue of domestic sex trafficking. Already, our time has been so enriching and fulfilling.

A Warm Welcome to the Philippines

The last thing we expected when we walked off of the plane was a huge sign with our names on it. We aren’t famous, not even close, but we felt like celebrities.

Felicia Cantrell and I will be spending our summer in Dumaguete working with Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE). We will be doing anti-trafficking work and assisting in GWAVE’s community efforts and connections with the local law school.

When we arrived a few days ago, we were greeted by most of the GWAVE staff. They took us to breakfast where we also met the Dean of the law school at Silliman University. On our way to breakfast we drove past the law school, only to see another huge sign out front: “Welcome Krystelle Fernandez and Felicia Cantrell from ASU College of Law.” The spelling was close enough, because really, the thought was the ONLY thing that counted. We were welcomed to Dumaguete with open arms as they were all eager to share their work with us and collaborate to combat trafficking across the globe.

We’ve spent our first few days acclimating to the local cuisine, traffic, transportation, and even to the daily activities of the GWAVE staff. This morning we were able to participate in GWAVE’s Sunday morning radio show on human trafficking. They were given a one hour spot which they use to educate the community on trafficking issues and to answer questions texted in from listeners about the topic. We did our best to weigh in, which was a little difficult to do given that most of the show was in the local dialect, Visaya.

Tomorrow morning we head off to a local province for a court hearing with one of the GWAVE attorneys. They have many exciting opportunities for us to engage in the judicial system here and work alongside their attorneys, social workers and community educators. We are eager to absorb all that we can while we’re here.

We definitely stand out here – we’ve been the recipients of many non-subtle stares and even photographs. Hopefully, they’ll get used to seeing us around. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy our new celebrity status, it will be short lived.

Where did the time go?

It’s already the second week of April, and I really don’t know where the spring semester went, or my first year of law school for that matter. It’s been an interesting 8 months, and I’m sure the next 2 years will be equally interesting and will disappear just as easily.

I was at an event the other night for recently admitted law students, and it was weird to finally feel like I know something. It sounds ridiculous, but I feel like your whole 1L year is spent feeling just a step behind. Like somehow you’re always a little late getting new information. But, interacting with a group of potential fellow law students really made me realize that I’ve learned a few things after all.

They’re concerned about all the same things I was: When do you get your schedule? You have no say in it, really? How do you find time to do anything but study? Where do I live? What about my family and friends, will I see them again? And really, my answer to all of those things seems to be about the same: take it all in moderation. That was my answer. A cop out? No, it’s true. You can’t study all the time. You will adjust to your schedule, no matter what it is. You may have to get up earlier than you expected, or budget your time better, but you’ll adjust. You have to live somewhere that’s right for you, the right roommates or alone. The right area that allows you to drive if you can, walk if you want, or take the lightrail. Will you see family and friends? Yes, but if you consciously make time to do that. Law school is about balance in every respect. Balancing your time, your personal life, your mental health, your decisions – all of it comes back to moderation.

A new class of 1L’s will be here before I know it. Without that fourth year of schooling, it really feels fast, almost like the roller coaster ride has already reached the peak of the huge drop, and the next 2 years will be spent enjoying the big fall and all the twists and turns that follow.

You Know You’re In Law School When…

This is interactive, so fill in the blank. Here’s a few to get you started…

…your friends have “favorite” Supreme Court justices, and you know them.

…after being told there’s no wine allowed on the patio because it’s not enclosed, you begin wondering what would constitute enclosed anyway.

…you find a way to apply property law to a Disney movie .

…you post “legal jokes” (oxymoron) on your Facebook status. Face it, they’re only funny to other law school students. Everyone else thinks we’re nerds.

Mock Interviews

I haven’t had a lot of interviews in my day – well, at least not the serious kind. So, reluctantly, I signed up for a mock interview, knowing that I needed the practice.

Well, truth be told, it wasn’t that bad. Once you’re in law school, you realize that the interview process will become very comfortable to you with time, or at the very least, you better get used to it.

I interviewed with a woman from Snell & Wilmer. She was great. Very nice, very pleasant. She could tell pretty quickly that I am not really interested in working for a big firm, I’ll probably end up in the public sector, but we went through the interview nonetheless.

What did I get out of it? Well, the following:

1. The more you can make an interview like a conversation, a dialogue, the better you’ll do, the better the interview will go, the more likable and personable you’ll seem.

2. Dress the part. She commented that I looked well put together and poised. Sloppiness will count against you, even if you’re a great conversationalist.

3. Tailor your answers to the interviewer. She gave me some great advice, which was if I decide I do want to work at a firm, even if only for some different experiences, downplay my passion for public interest work, and really stress that I’m looking for a range of experiences and that I want a fuller understanding of the legal profession.

4. Make eye contact. She mentioned that she’s interviewed some people that don’t make eye contact, and it’s awkward and doesn’t bode well for displaying your people skills.

5. Work experience is a HUGE plus. An interviewer wants to know that you’re mature enough to handle the workplace. Can you work on a team? Get along with your coworkers? Will you realize that this isn’t law school?

Great experience. I’d recommend it to any 1L’s who don’t feel great about their interviewing skills or who just want some honest feedback about ways to improve.

Krystle Fernandez

I was a journalism major at the University of Florida (Go Gators!) so I’ve had a lot of experience writing on deadline. I’m a 1L, and really excited to be here at ASU. I hope to be a legal advocate fighting against sex trafficking when I graduate, so I’m doing all I can now to get involved in combatting this issue. I’ve always loved to write. I tried my hand a few times at some poetry in elementary school, some fiction tales in middle school, and, well, I took an AP English test in high school, so I guess that counts. I used to write for both The Miami Herald and TheDallas Morning News, and I loved the experience of writing for a newspaper. But, as times have changed, and newspapers are struggling, the blogging world is the new place to be.

I’m fortunate enough to be a board member for 13:Advocacy Against Sex Trafficking and the Pro Bono Board, and a volunteer for Street Law, and JLAP. When I’m not reading for class I enjoy trying out new cookie recipes, hiking, and some amateur photography. I look forward to staying involved and watching the next 2.5 years just fly by.