Teresa L. Cannady
How did you get involved with ABA ROLI (formerly ABA CEELI)?
The Alabama State Bar conducted a continuing legal education exchange program with the St. Petersburg, Russia, bar, for which participants stayed in each other’s homes. This initiated my interest, and when I read an ABA Journal article about the ABA Central Europe and Eurasia Law Initiative program, I began to investigate further. I filled out the application, not really believing I would actually join, but when I was called for an interview, I was thrilled. I was offered a position in Kazakhstan and moved there within 30 days of the offer, much to the consternation of family and friends.
In what country/countries did you serve, and what was the focus of your work there?
I originally served as a rule of law liaison in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, working with a bar association, opening a law library and collaborating with the law school. Eventually, the program led to opportunities to work with women lawyers and shelters for survivors of gender-based violence, and I became a gender issues liaison. I later worked as a gender issues liaison in the Balkans, based in Belgrade and working in Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. We conducted various training programs on women’s rights and conducted a CEDAW (Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination against Women) assessment in Serbia. I was also a country director in the Philippines, where we worked with the courts, bar associations and law schools.
What was your most memorable moment while at ABA ROLI/CEELI?
We hosted a town hall meeting in Shymkent for parliamentarians to answer questions from the public. This was a completely new concept for citizens and they were thrilled with the opportunity to ask questions of their representatives in this forum. We conducted this program in collaboration with International Foundation for Electoral Systems and also discussed election issues. This open forum was talked about for months afterwards in Shymkent and was an amazing step forward for democracy.
What did your career look like before you volunteered? Did your career change as a result of your service?
Before coming to ABA CEELI, I was practicing law in a small town setting and I never went back. I've been working in international development ever since serving as chief of party and in technical positions in countries around the world. I am currently consulting in this field.
What is the best thing you have learned from your ABA ROLI/ABA CEELI time?
That people everywhere are the same—there is more that unites us than divides us.
Tell us about your career today. What do you find most challenging about your work?
The image of the U.S. has deteriorated over recent years and we have to overcome perceptions and prejudices in some countries about our motivations.
Are there ways in which your ABA ROLI/ABA CEELI experiences benefit your current position?
My approach now is definitely influenced by what I learned with the ABA CEELI programs. Grassroots approaches and relationship building are critically important in this type of work.
Among ABA ROLI’s current work, is there a particular program or initiative that you think is particularly important?
Working to support women's empowerment and protection of rights is very important.
Share why you think this type of work is critical for improving the rule of law globally?
It affects so many other areas of life and is essential to the financial wellbeing of a country. Unless a country has a system where citizens can seek redress, regardless of wealth or stature, their ability to succeed is impeded. Rule of law programs help educate and empower citizens to make their country their own.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now?
I am still working in international development and, hopefully, see big successes in the world with more freedoms and protections for citizens, especially for marginalized populations.