Celia Ouellette – Human rights lawyer

What do you do? and how did you get into it?
I’m a human rights lawyer, and I run an organization called the Responsible Business Initiative on the Death Penalty (RBI). We engage business leaders in advocacy against the death penalty. After working as a lawyer on death penalty cases for many years it was clear there was a need to work with business leaders interested in human rights issues.

What would you advise someone wanting to work within the human rights field?
Human rights roles at charities are notoriously competitive, so I’d say start by doing something, even if it isn’t your dream job.  I also strongly believe there is no one “dream job” – spend time working out what makes you happy and then find a way to do that.

Did you face any difficulties entering your job? if so how did you overcome them?
The challenges facing a start-up charitable organization are quite similar to those of a start-up business: from finding the funds to keep the project running, to engaging new stakeholders etc. But, I have been fortunate to find a posse of amazing supporters from multiple disciplines. This work is super tough, and those who believe in it are incredibly supportive and passionate.

What do you love most about what you do, a particular career highlight?
Seeing RBI come into fruition – after so many years of seeing a vision for it – has got to be up there.

Lastly, is there anyone in particular who inspires you to do what you do?
I’m so inspired by pioneers, regardless of their field: the government that chooses to take a bold strategy when it would be easier to remain passive; the business that sticks its head above the parapet to speak truth to power about a subject matter its leadership cares about; I recently realized I’ve hired exclusively women over the years. For many years now I’ve had the enormous privilege of being surrounded by a gang of badass women doing badass things, and now I get to work with female business leaders willing to lead the way on human rights issues.