Meet the 2022-23 Barer Fellows and Scholars

Three mid-career leaders were selected to enroll in the Sustainable International Development LLM Program and serve as change makers in their home countries upon graduation. This year’s scholars are the Hon. Arobia Khanam, the Hon. Elias N. Mwenda and Somto Kizor-Akaraiwe.

2022–23 Barer Fellows

Hon. Arobia Khanam

Arobia Khanam

Hon. Arobia Khanam (Bangladesh) is a Barer Fellow and a candidate in the Sustainable International Development LL.M. Program. She is currently on deputation from her role an Assistant Judge with the Bangladesh Judiciary. As a judge, she adjudicates civil disputes and oversees Family Court, where she mediates cases and works to strengthen the role of law in human rights. She also serves as a District Legal Aid Officer to ensure access to justice for poor and vulnerable litigants by appointing legal aid panel lawyers, covering litigation costs and mediating civil and criminal cases, including for prisoners detained for long periods without representation due to resource constraints and insufficient public defense.

Judge Khanam began her career as a lecturer in law in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages at Bangladesh Open University. There she was one of the pioneers launching an LL.B. Honors program. She has connected with students through diverse media, including classroom lectures, video and audio lectures that were telecast and uploaded on Bangladesh Television and YouTube. She also conducts writing modules on lecturers on Muslim Law and the Law of Contracts. She has performed research on climate change, marine pollution and fishing and the education of coastal communities to contribute to sustainable development in Bangladesh. She has also worked to promote the rights of transgender individuals.

Judge Khanam looks forward to deepening her knowledge in Sustainable International Development and using that knowledge to advance peace, justice and strong institutions in Bangladesh and to act as a bridge between Bangladesh and the U.S. Judge Khanam received her LL.B. with Honors and LL.M. from the Department of Law, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. She speaks Bengali and English.

Hon. Elias N. Mwenda

Elias Mwenda

Hon. Elias N. Mwenda (Kenya) is a Barer Fellow and a candidate in the Sustainable International Development LL.M. Program. Hon. Mwenda is passionate about positive justice outcomes and currently serves as a Principal Magistrate with the Kenyan Judiciary at the Bungoma Law Courts in Bungoma County in western Kenya. In his role, he hears criminal pleas in the first instance and civil (commercial) cases. He also serves as the Deputy Registrar (administrative head) of two Superior Courts: the High Court and the Environment and Land Court. Until September 2021, he also served as the Deputy Registrar of the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

Hon. Mwenda is active in devising and instituting programs to enhance access to justice. He is currently piloting a program with other justice actors to provide poor families with paralegal assistance in filing succession (inheritance) matters. Prior to joining the judiciary, he was in private practice specializing in commercial litigation for nine years. He joined the judiciary as a Senior Resident magistrate in 2016. Hon. Mwenda earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Nairobi and his postgraduate diploma in law in 2007 from the Kenya School of Law.

2022–23 Barer Scholar

Somto Kizor-Akaraiwe

Somto Kizor-Akaraiwe

Somto Kizor-Akaraiwe (Nigeria) is a Barer Fellow and an LL.M. Candidate in Sustainable International Development at the University of Washington School of Law. She has been involved in Human Rights litigation, advocating for fundamental human rights, the rule of law and fairness for incarcerated persons in the Nigerian Prison Service. Somto has worked for a Nigerian State Government as a civil litigator and as a corporate attorney in private law practice. She also served as a Research Assistant to a sitting Judge of a Nigerian State High Court.

From 2020, Somto has been involved in researching the areas of data privacy, artificial intelligence, technology and intellectual property as tools for solving Africa’s challenges. Somto earned her Bachelor of Laws degree from University of Nigeria and holds a Master of Laws Degree in Intellectual Property Law, with Distinction, from Indiana University. In her free time, Somto serves as trustee of a non-profit organization aimed at granting legal and non-legal assistance to women and children in need of representation, relocation and resettlement. She also enjoys watching movies, going on road trips, reading and spending time with her family.