Grace Oladipo’s motivations for pursuing human rights law may have begun in her childhood home in Nigeria, but they grew in her adolescence and college years in Ireland.
“Human rights work is so important in this current time. In a generation where rights are violated daily, there is a need for those who will work to address these violations, promote the realization of human rights, educate individuals on their own rights, advocate for the voiceless, and ensure that every individual is treated in a way that celebrates their human dignity,” said Oladipo, an Irish Fulbright Scholar who is pursuing an LL.M. in International Human Rights Law at Notre Dame Law School. “Human rights work is integral to every single human being.”
Oladipo was born in Nigeria, but her family decided to leave the west African country after they were the victims of an armed robbery at their home. She was 8 years old when they moved to Ireland. It was a hard transition, she remembers, but her parents believed it was necessary to provide their children with opportunities in a safe community.
All six members of the Oladipo family lived in a single rented room for the first few months they were in Ireland. Her parents worked hard, saved money, and eventually were able to buy a home.
“My parents are very strong in their faith,” she said. “They led me to my faith.”
Because of her upbringing in Nigeria, Oladipo knew from an early age she wanted to work in human rights in general, but was drawn to the legal aspect of human rights during her undergraduate years.
“Growing up in abject poverty, being surrounded by crime and being faced with the consequences of an unjust political system set a fire within me for change,” she said. “I always wanted to do something about the injustice, the human rights violations, and the ignorance of those who were indifferent to the inequality.”
She earned a bachelor's degree in civil law with a European focus from University College Dublin in 2020 and then started looking at master’s programs.
While researching programs, she was drawn to Notre Dame Law School’s LL.M. in International Human Rights Law. Since its founding 50 years ago, the program has trained more than 400 human rights lawyers from more than 100 countries. Those graduates have fanned out across the globe to fight for human dignity, and the Notre Dame program has become well known and respected by lawyers and governments around the world.
“I knew this was perfect for me,” she said. “I grew up thinking of a lawyer as a linear role — put on your robes and wig, stand in a courtroom. But Notre Dame lets you be a different kind of lawyer.”
Oladipo is a recipient of the Fulbright Ireland Student Award for the LL.M in international Human Rights Law. Through this program, Notre Dame Law School waives the tuition of the student that is awarded the scholarship. In addition, the Fulbright Commission gives the student a monetary award to contribute to their time at Notre Dame.
Oladipo will return home to Ireland after graduation. She has two more years of internship and tests to become an attorney. Then she hopes to work in policy reform, specifically with homeless populations and advocacy work for mandatory housing for post-incarceration populations. She would like to continue those efforts, among others, in the intersection of business and human rights work.
“When I was in my second year of university, myself and a friend, Priscilla Obilana, started an organization called Jamie's Friends,” Oladipo said. “We wanted to do something about the homeless crisis in Dublin. We realized that one way we could do this was by providing long-term support for homeless people.”
They started with handing out care packages in the city centers of Dublin and Sheffield. They began fundraising shortly after, and continued to grow their care package donations. Through this work, Oladipo said she realized most of the homeless people were fresh out of prison with nowhere to go and no support.
“Our vision is to provide long-term support in the form of employment by partnering with corporations, training homeless people for their professional development and making sure that they get off the streets for good into a better life,” Oladipo said.
Visit law.nd.edu/LLM for more information on Notre Dame Law School’s LL.M. programs.