We congratulate Yoana Tchoukleva, recipient of the IANGEL 2015 Rights & Leadership Award, conferred at our Second Anniversary Celebration. Ms. Tchoukleva recently graduated Berkeley Law School, with the Class of 2014. Despite graduating from law school less than a year ago at 27 years old, Yoana Tchoukleva’s impact in the area of human rights has already been significant.
Prior to law school, Yoana received a Human Rights Fellowship from the University of Chicago. Through the fellowship, Yoana chose to work on human rights projects in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Among these projects, she assisted widows of the genocide start a self-sustaining business making baked goods. Ms. Tchoukleva describes that one of her greatest successes in the project was beyond the development of practical business skills, by inspiring the women to believe in their own vision of their future, not only what they were being told by others around them, including well-meaning international aid organizations.
Despite her success in helping these women, Yoana felt frustrated by legal impediments that prevented people from leading happy and productive lives, including laws that barred women from owning businesses. It was during this time that Yoana decided to attend law school to help influence policies and laws.
At Berkeley Law, she chaired a number of student organizations, served as an editor of the California Law Review, and co-founded two legal projects. One of the projects she started–the Post-Conviction Advocacy Project–has led to eight people being released on parole after serving decades behind bars. Balancing her domestic social justice work with a commitment to fighting injustice abroad, Yoana launched the International Human Rights Workshop that gave Berkeley Law students an opportunity to provide Liberia’s Law Reform Commission with information on how to improve their sexual and gender-based violence laws.
In 2015, Yoana has gone on to work as a Litigation Fellow at the ACLU of Northern California, where she has focuses on criminal justice issues.
And all this is only a start – If she’s accomplished all of this at only 27 years old, we feel certain that Yoana will continue to be a leader, using the law as a tool for positive social change.