AMANDLA! VANGUARD EDITION

Joaquine De-Mello

Joaquine De-Mello

President Bar Association (First Woman)

Chair of TAWJA (Women Judges & Magistrates Association of Tanzania)

Chair of Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition

My Story, Your Inspiration

Being the eldest daughter out of four daughters, I was brought up to lead with confidence. I saw myself being a class monitor, dormitory leader, and Drama/English Club leader. I express gratitude to my progressive and dynamic parents who shaped my future in that spirit. I remember at times to be being selected by my class teachers to take over lower classes in times of vacuum. Interestingly, I was handed over a newcomer named Victoria who joined our school at P5 with limited qualities for learning. I vividly remember the instructions given to me by the headmistress that her comfort and state of affairs shall solely depend on me. Victoria ended up being a confident and joyful student notwithstanding her constraints. It was only after I saw myself excelling in many other areas that I realized the trust and confidence my teachers and colleagues had long bestowed upon me. I have also come to realize that I give much of myself to others but get nothing or little from them; however, I don't take this with any reservations, but with gratitude and all humility. I realize that I have been given a special mission in life, for others at large. During my tenure as the Bar President, I made sure Legal Aid is taken on board with a view of giving back to the community. I recall some resistance from one male Council member who, without mincing words, cautioned me not to import 'feminine' ideas to the Bar. Simply meaning, the Bar is masculine. However, I sternly and categorically stood for my conviction and secured support from the rest of the members, both male and female. As we speak now, the society (Bar) commemorates Legal Aid Week every year, attracting a multitude of marginalized and vulnerable indigents. No one has acknowledged me to be the author/founder but I just feel happy and peaceful as it has become my legacy. Coming from a Civil Society and Human Rights Commission background, joining the bench was not a smooth ride. It came with the cost of being cautioned by the Attorney General and, on my swearing-in day, being reminded that activism is not part of the Judge’s quality. Amidst all that, I still performed my judicial work with passion and enthusiasm, along with a gender and rights lens. Of course, without compromising the basic judicial principles, law, and international instruments. Life is truly a struggle and becomes more interesting when you make others happy and secure.

We all are different. There are no hard and fast rules one can employ to address challenges and struggles ahead of her and in general terms. But one simple piece of advice is to listen to your inner voice. Believe in yourself and avoid omission to stand for the truth. However threatening or intimidating the situation may be, the truth shall ultimately set one free. There are a lot of distractions in the world we live in today. The digital era has changed the world to undefined heights. There is a general myth that women lawyers are difficult, stubborn, and problematic. This is mere insecurities and fear of the unknown by the perpetrators. Let us walk with our heads up high as we respect others. It is our noble duty and profession to support others in need of rights. We need to do twice as much of what our male counterparts do, but that should not deter us.