Kaitlin Cordes ’08

World Wise

Fall 2010

When Kaitlin Cordes ’08 was 15 years old, her parents insisted that she spend a summer in France, living with a French family. The DeKalb, Ill., native had never traveled abroad, didn’t speak much French, and strongly resisted the idea. Her parents, however, were certain the experience would give Cordes a broader understanding of the world. Little did she know that they were absolutely right, and that the trip would completely change her attitude about traveling—as well as help shape her future.

“I gained a lot of confidence that summer as a person, but also in my ability to live and thrive in another culture,” says Cordes, who, as a David W. Leebron Human Rights Fellow, spent the first half of this year living in New Delhi. Her human rights work in the Indian capital focused on promoting the right to livelihood, which is the concept that people must have access to a means for making a living.

Cordes conducted research and field work for the Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, an international advocacy and educational initiative based in India. Then she spent time working with Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food. Cordes met De Schutter during her third year, when he taught a seminar at the Law School that spurred her interest in right-to-food issues.

“The fact that our world produces enough food, yet more than 1 billion people still don’t have access to sufficient food is shocking and appalling,” says Cordes.

Although she’s back in New York as a Sandler Fellow at Human Rights Watch, Cordes’ travels are not over: For the fellowship, she’ll soon be in South Africa researching rights violations committed against agricultural laborers.