AMANDLA! VANGUARD EDITION
Beatrice Duncan, Ph.D.
Rule of Law Advisor, UN Women
Children and Women's Law Expert
My Story, Your Inspiration
I was named after a paternal great grandmother—Abrekna, who, did not allow illiteracy or other life circumstances to define who she was. As a firm believer in the empowerment of women, Abrekna was a feminist in her own right, planting the seeds of my quest for women’s rights and social justice in me at an early age. This era of the Black Lives Matter movement reminds me of a time when I led an amateurish revolt against what I thought was different treatment of black pupils in my primary school. During my years in high school, one of my teacher’s lost her husband, and a few days after his death, she and her children were evicted from the matrimonial home by the family of her deceased husband.
These two examples of racial and gender-based discrimination fueled my passion to become a social activist. When the opportunity came for me to study law, I took full advantage of it. I believed then, as I do now, that law is one of the tools for fighting injustice and discrimination. I eventually narrowed my interest down to the rights of women and children, initially working with civil society and partnering with other actors such as the media. Participating in the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and drawing inspiration from other feminist trailblazers was a monumental turning point for me. Working with the United Nations has provided a structured mechanism for continuing this effort. I can state with confidence that the law remains an effective tool for addressing social injustice.
The quest for social justice will remain a struggle across generations as societies are confronted with different social challenges. This current age of technology and social media can either be used or misused through a tweet, blog or hashtag. Young women of this generation have a unique opportunity to demand a gender equal world through these global platforms as well as by learning from the experiences and lessons of the feminist movement from a historical perspective. As former President Barak Obama stated in his speech to the class of 2020, “…if the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you.”