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Unveiling Subalternity? Women and the Legal Professions in Africa


This report provides a summary of a 3-day webinar series held from July 29th-31st, 2020, organized by the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL), in partnership with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH under the theme, “Unveiling Subalternity: Women and the Legal Professions Across Africa.” Discussions at the event were led by twelve legal professionals and the event was attended by over 300 guests.

The idea of subalternity is rooted in postcolonial studies which seek to understand and critically challenge the existence of covert, and sometimes overt forms of discriminatory practices and the “othering” of some groups of people. Such discriminatory practices can lead to the subordination of the “other”, where the “other” could be based on intersecting identities such as gender, class, religion and other status. The goal of this conference was to examine and “unveil” the ways in which the practices within the legal professions rendered women visible, as evidenced by the women in leadership positions, while simultaneously rendering them invisible through discriminatory practices endemic in the inherited legal profession.

The purpose of the webinar series was to discuss subalternity in the legal profession, and ways in which change can be made to support female legal professionals. The webinar was created as a forum in which women could hear the experiences of various legal professionals in different leadership positions, and discuss the accomplishments, challenges and strategies needed to become a successful woman in the legal occupation.

The attached report is a synthesis of the responses from a survey conducted during the webinar. The findings in this report demonstrate several key issues surrounding women in the legal professions. This report kickstarts a series of conversations by the Institute for African Women in Law under the theme "Women in Law and Leadership Dialogues."


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