Changing Traditions Through International Law with Dr. Fatemah Albader

Uncategorized Apr 01, 2021

Lawyers are often exposed to a variety of people from all walks of life. At some point in your career, you may encounter a case that requires you to have a deeper understanding of a different cultural background. Situations like this make international law handy for any lawyer in any field. It is also a good learning opportunity to further your career.

In this episode, Dr. Fatemah Albader joins us to talk about issues concerning international law. She also discusses the importance of electing women into power and slowly breaking tradition for positive change.

If you want to know more about women’s rights and different international issues, then this episode is for you.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to this episode:

  1. Know more about specific legal issues on an international level. 
  2. Learn more about breaking old traditions and stereotypes on gender. 
  3. Discover what you can do as an individual to effectuate change.


Episode Highlights

How Fatemah Ended Up Studying Law

  • Fatemah studied political science and public relations at the University of Florida. 
  • She enjoyed her law classes the most and thought that the best path would be to continue her legal studies and pursue law. 
  • She studied law at Emory University School of Law and interned at various international organizations. Through this, Fatemah realized that she wanted to work in the field of international law.
  • Fatemah is particularly interested in human rights and humanitarian law.
  • She went back to Kuwait after finishing her law degree and obtained an LLM from Berkeley.

How a Law Firm Should Pay Attention to International Law

  • Any lawyer in any field needs to have a basic understanding of international law.
  • If a lawyer encounters someone from a different culture, it is good to know who they are and what defines them and their culture.
  • Even if you never have to deal with another system, a learning opportunity is great for your career.

How Issues in the US Compare to Those in Kuwait

  • Every single country has human rights problems. International law comes in to try to solve these problems as best as it can.
  • To make strong arguments in specific issues, Fatemah would compare them to other countries. 
  • The issues each country has would depend on its makeup and history. 
  • A powerful cultural identity is taken into consideration in Kuwait compared to the United States.

Fatemah: “A lot of the reasons why there's not that much change when you think about all these different human rights issues here in Kuwait is these very strong cultural ties that we still hold on to.”

  • The difference in human rights between countries depends on time and how easily we can break through old traditions.

Fatemah: “When we speak up because we're no longer silenced, that's when society changes.”

Why There Are Fewer Women in Elected Positions

  • Fatima proposes to use a quota system for elected positions so that equally qualified women and minorities can get these positions.

Fatemah: “All I ask is that we give equally as qualified women some positions in government, some elected seats in government until they are able to do so for themselves.”

  • Women are not getting elected, and people are not voting for them; this goes back to the idea of culture. 
  • Women are not elected because many people associate certain stereotypes with them.

Fatemah: “The only way to challenge these stereotypes is to be able to prove that these stereotypes aren't real, and the only way to do that is to be able to have women elected to these positions.”

  • Women are not being voted because people are sometimes told to vote for men.

How to Fix the Lack of Demand

  • You would need enough women from different districts to make a difference.
  • The benefit is not only in having women elected but in being open to new ideas, voices, and things we have been previously closed off.
  • It comes back to customs that you hold on to. Until you can change the prevailing norms, you will not see a change in society's behavior. 

Fatemah: “If you start small like that, but not small enough that you don't achieve a critical mass, then eventually with small changes, I think that things will head in the right direction.”

Getting the Public Used to Minorities Holding Positions

  • One person is not going to effectuate change by themselves; it should be for the critical mass.
  • Including minorities and women still does make a difference whether you are in a private business or public sphere, such as in the government.
  • Fatemah wants to tackle the stereotype on women even if it means forcing a quota on elected positions for the time being. It is the only way to show people that women can be in positions.
  • We need a quota system because international treaties that govern women's rights mandate it.

Moshe: “We need to find a way to get people, to get women, or to get minorities into these positions now rather than just waiting for the public to eventually come to terms with it.”

“Until we start to change how we treat boys and girls in education when they're young, when they're impressionable, I think there's always going to be a divide that now we'd have to overcome later on.”

Human Rights Issues in Kuwait

  • Freedom of speech is a human rights issue that Kuwait faces.
  • Children's rights are also another issue. Rights in adoption are different in Kuwait from the United States due to Islamic tradition and values.
  • Rights between or against migrants in Kuwait is also a hot issue.
  • Sex trafficking is not so much a focus in Kuwait. It does happen but not to the extent as in other countries.

What Can We Do As Individuals?

  • Fear provokes racist thoughts and actions. 
  • Educate yourself and don’t simply rely on what's going on in the media. 

Fatemah: “It's a choice whether or not you choose to discriminate; it's a choice whether you choose to attack or not. And so you should choose not to do so, in any situation.”

About Fatemah

Dr. Fatemah Albader is an assistant professor of international law at Kuwait International Law School. She is also the co-chair of the Young Lawyers Interest Network and co-vice chair of publications of the Middle East Committee of the American Bar Association, a section of international law.

Dr. Fatemah has published with numerous international journals, including the Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Law, Tsinghua China Law Review, UCLA Asian Pacific American Law Journal, Indonesian Journal of International and Comparative Law, and Minnesota Journal of International Law.

If you wish to get in contact with her, you may send an email through [email protected].

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