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Belen Awdenegest Moges

LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy, University of Galway

Belen worked at the Ethiopian Human Rights Council as a Program Office before receiving a fellowship award in 2021-22 to study on the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy at University College Cork.  

I would recommend the Ireland Fellows Programme as Ireland is a wonderful place to advance your studies with one of the best education systems, rich culture, and amazing people

Prior to commencing my fellowship, I worked at the Ethiopian Human Rights Council as a Program Officer where I designed, developed, and ensured the proper implementation of projects that will address human rights problems of the country. As a Human Right Officer, I had the responsibility to monitor and investigate human rights violations, draft reports on the human rights situation of the country, provide legal aid, and conduct research on various Human Rights issues. 

I chose the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy at University College Cork because it perfectly aligns with my future career plans. It offers multi-disciplinary teaching and a unique international human rights clinical module which will equip me with the necessary practical litigation and advocacy skills that I need. Working in the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, I was exposed to human rights litigation and advocacy work. As a result, I am very aware that there is much work yet to be done in litigation and advocacy for human rights in Ethiopia. My country needs to increase the number of skilled human rights lawyers who have the necessary exposure and education. 

So far, the biggest benefit I have got from the fellowship is having the opportunity to pursue my studies in a world-renowned university. I think that on its own is enough, but I have also had the opportunity to meet new friends from around the world, experience different cultures, travel and to see Ireland. Studying the LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy has allowed me to understand different jurisdictions’ approaches to various human right issues and to enhance my research and writing skills. I have also been able to test my ability to concentrate and work for long hours! The course is packed with students from all around the world with different experiences. It is fascinating and interesting learning about different countries’ experience.  

Adjusting to life in Ireland has not been difficult, but still there were a lot of things I have had to get used to, the biggest being knowing which way cars are coming and going as the direction people drive is the opposite to back home, so I always must be careful and look both ways before crossing any street (I am still not sure I have fully adapted to it!). The other thing that I have had to adjust to is the weather. In Ethiopia, we have all-year-round sunny weather; however, in Ireland, even in the summer, the temperature is still low compared to back home. There are also some cultural differences like public drinking and smoking, and the food.  

When I return home, I will miss how calm the environment in Ireland is (which might have something to do with the size of the population), and how structured and easy it is to get to places and find things you are looking for. I will also greatly miss the beautiful places, the scenery and Ireland’s unique and rich culture.  

Through the fellowship I have acquired a deep knowledge of major human rights issues, strategic litigation, and fact finding and development. I hope to lend this knowledge and skills to the development of human rights focused polices in Ethiopia that will empower the people and comply with international human rights standards. At an organisational level, I plan to use the knowledge and experiences that I acquire through this fellowship to help my organisation to coordinate, structure and focus its work to help advocate and fight for better protection of human rights in Ethiopia. 

 As part of my course programme, I am required to do a thesis. My dissertation looks at the relationship between sovereignty and human rights, and seeks to address if the issue of sovereignty or human rights should be given priority, especially in times of grave human rights violations. Contrary to major beliefs, I will try to argue that the issue of sovereignty should take a back seat to human rights, especially in cases of grave human rights violations. 

My hope for the future of my country is to see an Ethiopia that is governed and directed by human rights principles and standards with the aim of a more sustainable, powerful, and effective protection of the human rights of the people where every citizen’s rights are protected and fulfilled. On a personal level, I hope to be able to contribute to solving some of the human rights problems of my country, to further advance my studies, and create more links which would enable me to experience diverse cultures and places. 

I would recommend the Ireland Fellows Programme as Ireland is a wonderful place to advance your studies with one of the best education systems, rich culture, and amazing people. The Fellowship is a once in a lifetime opportunity with immensely helpful and considerate staff. Most importantly is the continuous support and guidance that fellows receive throughout the entire year, so you do not feel overwhelmed or alone.  

My best advice to anyone interested in applying for a fellowship is to just start the application process, that is the important part, do not doubt yourself or look at the situation around you, just start the application and everything will get in place after that!