Fulbright Mentors Nigerian Attorney in U.S. State Department Program
Nigerian attorney Hauwa Shekarau with
Fulbright senior partner Linda Addison
Hauwa Shekarau, 38, spent more than two weeks visiting with Fulbright attorneys in Houston and Washington, D.C. She also got to meet with a variety of business and political leaders, including First Lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and United States Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“One of the things I have learned in the course of this mentoring partnership is you put the right peg in the right holes and then you achieve good results,” Ms. Shekarau said during her visit to Fulbright’s Houston office.
When Ms. Shekarau first learned she was headed to Fulbright, she said she found it “mind boggling” that the firm employs more than 960 attorneys worldwide. Ms. Shekarau employs six attorneys at her firm in Nigeria’s capital, Abjua.
In Africa, Ms. Shekarau said employment is often based solely on who a person knows. She took note of how Fulbright’s hiring is based on the experience a person brings.
“Everybody comes and does his work and somehow, because they all fit in nicely, you have a very successful office,” Ms. Shekarau said.
Ms. Shekarau, who is the president of the Nigerian branch of the International Federation of Women Lawyers, also known as FIDA, is working to overturn discriminatory laws against women.
For example, Ms. Shekarau said Nigerian women are prevented from working in mines – one of the country’s more profitable jobs. And when a man dies, his wife is immediately suspected of causing his death, she added.
“It’s been very, very exciting for me,” Ms. Shekarau said of her time at Fulbright, which wrapped up when she left Tuesday.
Fulbright partner Linda Addison was invited last year by FORTUNE Magazine to attend its Most Powerful Women Summit. As a result, she was asked to mentor Ms. Shekarau during the FORTUNE/U.S. State Department’s inaugural International Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership.
“I was delighted, but I was surprised to be asked to mentor a lawyer, because I had understood that this program was for international women business leaders,” Ms. Addison said. “Hauwa is a leader in international human rights and women’s rights, and I see exactly why she was selected by the State Department.”
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this program and to teach that one person can make a difference,” Ms. Addison said. “Women and men become empowered when they see what is possible and what others internationally have achieved.”
Ms. Addison, who began trying cases in the late 1970s when many firms would not give women that opportunity, shared with Ms. Shekarau her belief that vision and persistence pay off.
“There is something to be said simply for sticking with it,” she said. “It is just remarkable what hard work and persistence will achieve. … A number of people, both male and female, tend to give up too soon and too easily. Hauwa is obviously somebody who doesn’t ever give up.”