Ulrike Mbuton | Cameroon
What do you do in your home country and what do you hope to do upon your return? In particular, with the integration of your experiences here?
In Cameroon I am a lawyer by profession and what I do is I volunteer with an organization that provides pro bono legal services to women who are victims of rape and gender based violence. For now I do that during my spare time but my main job is a human rights officer for the African Union Mission in Somalia.
There is a good lot that I’ve learned and experienced during my time here, especially from the academic sessions in class and in working with my peer collaborator. I've seen how the justice system in America works and how they work hard to preserve the evidence collected from victims of rape to make the court cases easier. Pennsylvania’s Sexual Assault Response Center is set up to involve counselors, nurses, the police, and an in-house attorney. All of them work together to provide a comprehensive response to rape. I think it would be difficult to immediately set something up like that at home because it would be hard to sustain. But something I did notice that could be implemented is the system where judges, attorneys and police come together over a regular period to do a case review, to see what went wrong and what went right and how they can work to make their work better. The police hold investigations but they don't talk to judges or lawyers, and because there is such a disconnect certain things fall through the cracks. So hopefully I will be able to persuade judges, police and doctors to come together to talk and discuss how they come together to work on the cases and how they can improve the system. Back home we really struggle to convince judges to hold private trials of rape. Here, even though there is no legal provision here that says it must be a private trial, most judges do it this way. I think I will bring this back as an example.
What is your favorite thing about your home country? How about Philadelphia?
The diversity. Rich in culture from the language to the food to the dressings and way of life. Cameroon is a combination of every part of Africa.
I think I enjoyed the murals and the fact that it is this historic city. I never knew about its link to American independence until I came here. I think it's something that makes Philadelphia unique. It’s good to see that its linked to american history. Especially from a human rights perspective.
Do you have any hobbies or an interesting fact you wish to share about yourself?
Reading. Once in a blue moon I like to dance.
If I were to come to your home country, what is the first thing I should eat?
The fish. Cameroon has many coastal towns so people always prepare fish in a variety of ways.