AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION
Engobo Emeseh, Ph.D.
Professor, and Head of Law School, University of Bradford, UK.
Why did you decide to study law?
I decided to study law initially to practice law and be involved in advocacy for social justice issues that I cared about. However, following a postgraduate degree, I developed a keen interest in an academic career. I really enjoy the dynamism in the environment, the freedom of thought and debate. It is a melting pot of ideas, generations and cultures. A legal academic has the unique opportunity to help shape minds, and hopefully impact not just the law today, but the future through the next generation.
What is your proudest professional moment thus far?
Obtaining a first class from the Nigerian Law School, as the first time ever that women achieved that feat in the then 30 year history of the Nigerian Law School
Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?
I think every decision/action has taken me to the place I am now, so I am not sure I would have done anything differently
Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.
As an African woman now living in the West, the line from ‘Americanah’, … ‘I did not know I was black until I came to America’ resonates with me. However, what I was profoundly aware of from an early age was my gender and its restrictions! ‘Don’t you know you are a girl’ was a constant refrain when girls were rebuked. The intersectionality of race and gender has therefore been a very real factor in my career: from my first job interview where the interviewer extolled my performance but feared that as a young woman I may be distracted from my duties, to navigating my path to professorship in the UK. However, I was fortunate that in my family, the expectation for girls to excel was not any different from that for males. Herein lies the paradox of patriarchy, and the environment that forged the values, character and resilience that have proved invaluable.
What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?
I have never accepted the limitations that society places on me. Life has had its challenges, but I have taken full advantage of every opportunity, and have been prepared to change course where required. My dream when I studied Law was to practice law. However, obtaining first class in the Law School bought the opportunity for me to be awarded a scholarship to the UK, an experience that made me change career paths from legal practice to academia. Several years later, and impossible as it may have seemed, I am fortunate to be only one of very few female black professors in the UK. So as I say on the wall celebrating female professors at my University- do not ever limit yourself. … ‘find your passion, burn the script, dream the impossible, ride the waves, grab the opportunities life brings”