AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION

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Pedi Chiemena Obani

Assistant Professor, School of Law, University of Bradford

Why did you decide to study law?

I have always believed law to be critical for addressing development challenges, while advancing justice, equity and human rights. Moreover, as a teenager, I was keen to make a positive difference and be able to contribute to solving most pressing development challenges in my immediate environment. I believed that a law degree would be invaluable for this. I also hoped to build a career in academics. Now, as a law teacher, I enjoy the remarkable versality of a law degree. I also enjoy engaging my students in discussions about the important role of law in society; we often interrogate the structure, instruments, outcomes and underpinning values of legal systems.

What is your proudest professional moment thus far?

My proudest professional moment was when one of my students made a first class in the Nigerian Law School, despite facing so many challenges during his studies. It is always delightful to support students and see them realise their aspirations.

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Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?

My professional decisions and actions have led me to realise my dreams so far. I would not want to change anything.

Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.

Some of the major professional challenges that I have faced are linked to a mismatch between my personal ambition, passion and interests on the one hand, and the standards set by society on the other hand, particularly when society decides to tow the line of patriarchy. I have been at a conference where a male colleague proudly informed everyone that he turned out to be a fine lawyer because his mother gave up work to raise him. Another time, I had some female colleagues who were concerned because I was travelling away from home (and my family) for two days on a business trip. I still receive emails addressed to Mr. Obani/Sir; always leaves me wondering why people assume that they are corresponding with a man despite my profile photo. I am fortunate to have a solid support system in my family and closest friends whose cheers diminish the challenges!

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What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?

Excellence, discipline and hard work are essential for survival both as a woman and generally as a professional. This is especially important because there are few women in leadership positions in the legal profession. Hence, every success is important, if not critical for improving the opportunities for other women in future.
It is also important to have committed mentors, advocates, promotors (MAPs); I call them MAPs. Just as travel maps aid navigation, MAPs can drive one’s professional growth to unprecedented levels. More so, I have come to realise that we can all be MAPs to others and we owe it to womanhood to support each other to attain success.
Another strategy, and perhaps the most important, is to understand, appreciate and love myself as a woman. This involves prioritising and taking responsibility for my wellbeing and balancing the intersecting roles - in my private, community and professional lives.