Chi Adanna Mgbako
Research and Teaching Areas
Sex Worker Rights; Women’s Rights and Gender Justice; Human Rights and the Carceral State; Human Rights Advocacy
Chi Adanna Mgbako is clinical professor of law and director of the Walter Leitner International Human Rights Clinic at Fordham Law School. In partnership with grassroots organizations, she and her students work on human rights projects focusing primarily on sex worker rights, women’s rights and gender justice, and criminal justice reform. She has conducted human rights fieldwork in many countries, among them Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and the United States.
Under Mgbako’s direction, the clinic has worked on numerous projects, including shadow reports to international human rights bodies documenting abuses against African sex workers; claims to the United Nations on behalf of arbitrarily detained prisoners; human rights trainings on women and HIV/AIDS, LGBT refugee rights, and female genital cutting; human rights reports on police abuse of marginalized communities, employment discrimination against transgender people, and access to safe abortion; legal research for public interest lawsuits challenging the forced HIV testing of sex workers; mobile legal aid clinics in rural communities; and consultancy work for community-based paralegal programs.
She has published widely in academic journals and the popular press, including the Harvard Human Rights Journal, Yale Journal of International Affairs, Georgetown Journal of International Law, New York Times (International), The Guardian and HuffPost. Her first book, To Live Freely in This World: Sex Worker Activism in Africa (New York University Press 2016), is based on fieldwork in seven African countries and documents the rise of the movement for sex worker rights throughout the continent. It was profiled by BBC News Focus on Africa and Washington Post’s Monkey Cage political blog.
Mgbako earned her JD from Harvard Law School, where she received the Gary Bellow Public Service Award, and her BA, magna cum laude, from Columbia University. Before joining the Fordham law faculty in 2007, she served as the Harvard Henigson Human Rights Fellow in the West Africa Project of the International Crisis Group, where she focused on justice sector reform in Liberia and political reform in Nigeria, and as the Crowley Fellow in International Human Rights at Fordham Law School, where she co-produced a documentary on the feminization of HIV/AIDS in Malawi.
In recognition of Mgbako’s teaching, writing and human rights advocacy, she has been honored as a New York Law Journal “Rising Star,” National Law Journal Top 40 Lawyer of Color Under 40, Fordham Law School’s Public Interest Faculty Member of the Year, and a recipient of the Police Reform Organizing Project’s “Citizen of the City” Award. In 2017, she received the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Clinical Legal Education’s M. Shanara Gilbert Award, one of the highest honors in clinical legal education.
- Harvard Law School, JD, 2005
- Columbia University, BA, magna cum laude, 2001