2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Maheen Kaleem

Maheen Kaleem

Name of Host Organization: Rights 4 Girls
City, State: Washington, District of Columbia
Issue area: Women's Rights, Immigrant Populations - Trafficking/Slavery
Sponsors: Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

The Project

Maheen engaged in national and local advocacy on behalf of young women and girls involved in the juvenile justice system, particularly those who are victims of domestic child sex trafficking. Maheen engaged in legislative advocacy, and developed advocacy materials, training, publications, and campaigns designed to shift the national conversation towards recognizing that girls who experience gender-violence should not be criminalized for their abuse.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
There is growing concern about the needs of victims and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation, but there are few concentrated efforts that specifically focus on the special needs sexually exploited minors who become involved in the juvenile justice system. Likewise, there is not enough attention paid to the collateral consequences of that involvement. This project provides strategies and platforms for people who work in the juvenile justice system, and for survivors who wish to engage in reform efforts.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Maheen has:
• Published numerous op-eds on Rights4Girls’ seminal report, The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline and the need to reform the juvenile justice system’s response to girls
• Worked closely with survivors of domestic child sex trafficking and the Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline to engage in advocacy efforts to change the public perception of these children
• Advocated at federal, state, and local levels to pass policies that protect vulnerable and marginalized girls from being unfairly criminalized and improve services
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Maheen plans to:
• Continue her work at Rights4Girls as a Staff Attorney
• Build on the work she began at her fellowship to better equip attorneys to work with system-involved girls
• Ensure that the voices of vulnerable and marginalized girls are always represented in advocacy efforts

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