On January 31st, 2023, distinguished personalities in law and other stakeholders gathered at the Nairobi Serena Hotel to launch the Institute for African Women in Law’s (IAWL) reports on Women in Law and Leadership in the Kenyan bar, judiciary and legal academy. The reports provide an in-depth review of the challenges and opportunities women in law and leadership face in the field and seek to raise awareness of the need for greater gender equality in the legal profession.
The report is part of the Women Excellence in Law and Leadership (WELL) Initiative, commissioned by IAWL, to examine women’s access to leadership positions in the legal professions in four priority countries, namely Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa. It seeks to identify barriers and challenges faced by women and provide recommendations to promote their representation in leadership roles to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal #5 on gender equality. Factors such as the impact of culture and religion, sexual harassment and lack of support networks were identified as some of the main obstacles that Kenyan women in law face.
"I have never felt the imposter syndrome. Why should I feel like I am an imposter? I am a Kenyan, a child of God; I am here as of right. We need to claim the space we are occupying and fit squarely in and say that we are here as of right."
C.J. Martha Koome, Chief Justice of Kenya
The report further provides guidance and recommendations for interventions to be taken by policymakers, gatekeepers of the profession, civil society organizations, bar associations, judicial authorities, funding agencies, and other stakeholders interested in advancing women's leadership in law. Among these are the elimination of institutional and structural discrimination and harassment and transparency and equity in hiring and promotion.
"When we began, no one even thought a woman could do anything, let alone be a lawyer. We went to school and were told there were only two jobs for us--you either become a nurse or a secretary. Look at how far we have come today." Justice (Rtd.) Effie Owuor.
“Our mothers, sisters and mentors broke the barriers but we must expand and stretch the spaces that limit our potential” - Ms. Faith Odhiambo - Vice President, Law Society of Kenya.
CJ Martha Koome was present as the special guest of honor and keynote speaker at the function. In a fireside chat session moderated by the Executive Director of IAWL, Prof. Jarpa Dawuni, CJ Koome encouraged all women in the legal profession to conquer the imposter syndrome by claiming the spaces in which they find themselves and understand that they are there as of right. She also encouraged females to love, support and elevate each other within the profession. Other dignitaries in attendance included Lady Justice Effie Owuor - Kenya’s first female judge, and Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch, former ICC judge.
“Never get tired of empowering yourself and building your capacity as a woman; that is one sure way of advancing in your career” - Justice (Rtd.) Joyce Aluoch.
Despite the many challenges female legal professionals face, they are forging ahead and making strides in their careers. However, there is still a long way to go in achieving substantive equality, not only formal equality. IAWL is committed to launching a series of leadership development programs to support women seeking career leadership roles. We look forward to what the future holds for women in the legal profession, said Prof. Dawuni.
The full reports will be available on the IAWL website after all the country launches.
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