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Turning the Tide: Mutual Benefit of Male Allyship in Addressing the Gender Gap and GBV
By Osai J. Ojigho Country Director of Amnesty International, Nigeria In the span of 12 months, the number of years it would take to close the global gender gap in key areas such as economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment increased by 36 years, from 99.5 years in 2020 to 135.6 years in 2021. This depressing news, captured in the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, shows a major regression requiring urgent intervention to reverse the trend. The coronavirus pandemic that broke out in 2020 is blamed for increasing the gap between men’s and women’s success. Many women were employed in professions hardest hit by governments’ lockdown restrictions. Moreover, they were the ones burdened with carrying out domestic chores and, with schools closed, increased childcare. This has led to the loss of jobs and the decision to give up work to look after children and sick relatives. In Bangladesh, for example, women make up a majority of workers in the garment industry, so when factories closed, they could not work. In the United States, a third of working mothers are considering resigning or downshifting their careers to address burnout and stress due to childcare responsibilities. While the pandemic has led to more conversations around the value of unpaid work and domestic labor and has spotlighted gender-based violence and the inequality in healthcare access, these conversations have not resulted in a major shift in tackling long-term expectations of women as caregivers. A Financial Times survey showed that during the pandemic, two out of five men took on more housework than previously. However, the increase was not significant enough to mitigate the astronomical impact the pandemic has had on the gender wage gap in a year. The power and privilege on which most work structures are built essentially promote the ambitions of men to the detriment of women. In addition to unequal positions in the domestic sphere, women are harmed by gender-based violence (GBV), a pervasive tool of suppression. GBV is a factor in limiting women’s full participation in politics and decision-making, where abuses or threats of violence make participating in elections a risky venture. It is also a major barrier for girls and young women in pursuing schooling safely due to their exposure to physical and verbal abuse, and sexual harassment. In conflict situations, abductions, forced marriage, and rape are other pervasive risks. GBV became known as the shadow pandemic because it spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic when many women and girls were trapped at home with their abusers. Most of the initial COVID-19 measures lacked gender responsiveness and governments did not prioritize the provision of services for victims and survivors of GBV. When interventions were approved, they were not as quick or robust as needed to address the volume and complexities that many of the cases presented. Male Allyship The word ally means to “combine or unite a resource or commodity with (another) for mutual benefit.” Male allies should unite with women and other groups pushing to close the global gender gap. Men must share resources and work together with women to achieve goals for everyone’s enjoyment and benefit. An equal world is a fair world that we all stand to gain, so working together to achieve this faster is a reasonable possibility. Thus far, the bulk of the advocacy to combat gender inequality has been done by women and women’s rights organizations. Much progress in law and policy reform tackling gender discrimination and GBV is due to solidarity with key allies in the community, government, and inter-governmental agencies like the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN). Male allies can join in solidarity and use their skills and resources to advance gender equality in many ways. Men can open doors in institutions where they sit or hold authority, facilitate meetings with key agencies, and speak up for greater gender representation and inclusion in organizations. Further, they can support gender-sensitive policies and encourage other men to consider gender-responsive solutions to problems. During the pandemic, domestic responsibilities increased because of mandatory stay-at-home orders. To change the tide of increased burden on women, male allies can lead by example by taking a more equal share of housework and encouraging other men to do the same, even after the stay-at-home orders are lifted. We must highlight domestic chores as everyone’s work, not just women's and girls’ work. Additionally, outside the domestic sphere, the workplace is an area for opportunities and growth, and men in positions of authority can support policies that entrench gender equality principles in the recruitment and retention of staff. Workplaces that provide learning and training on inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility would lead to a more empowered and gender-inclusive workforce. When women’s rights organizations challenge power relations, the challenge is met by opposition from traditional gatekeepers including religious and cultural institutions, which are often led by men. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) carried out case studies in Asia and Africa and documented lessons learned on the benefits of engaging men and boys in gender equality work. One outcome the study identified was the improvement of GBV prevention, response, and coordination in a community where the program engaged with men in institutions mandated to implement anti-domestic violence and child rights laws. Men needed to take the initiative to take a stand against violence and not be a bystander when women’s rights were violated. Negative gender stereotypes perpetuate behaviors and practices that condone GBV. Addressing these stereotypes would go a long way in preventing GBV and strengthening support for victims and survivors. Male allies can play a key role in dismantling these negative norms while reconstructing belief systems for gender equality. For instance, male allies can consciously challenge toxic masculinity by not interrupting women when speaking, engaging with women in a non-threatening way, and encouraging other men and boys to alter their mindset on the harmful stereotypes that encourage GBV and violence. These examples of male allyship require men to see the world from a woman's perspective. While seeing something from another’s perspective can be challenging, it is not impossible. It requires an active, consistent awareness about one’s conscious and unconscious gender biases, acknowledgment of privilege, and a willingness to listen and act decisively when required. The concrete actions also require that allies accept that certain reactions to allyship would be uncomfortable and must be taken in stride. Andrea Dworkin, an American radical feminist activist and writer stated that “[w]omen are perceived to be appalling failures when we are sad. Women are pathetic when we are angry. Women are ridiculous when we are militant. Women are unpleasant when we are bitter, no matter what the cause. Women are deranged when women want justice. Women are man-haters when women want accountability and respect from men.” Dworkin shows how women’s expressions are stereotyped differently than men’s similar expressions. A male ally should respond with empathy, regardless of his own discomfort with the emotion or position expressed. He should not explain women’s emotions away or belittle someone else’s experience in order to feel better about himself. Male allies can support women in many different fields. When the Boston Marathon started, women were not allowed to run on the false notion that they were not physically fit to run 26 miles. In 1967, Kathrine Switzer decided she wanted to run and was prepared to challenge this sexist and discriminatory practice. She succeeded in registering using her initials, hiding the fact that she was female. During the race, she was attacked by the race manager who wanted to stop her from competing. However, her coach and boyfriend stood up against her attacker and protected her from the attacks. She became the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon due to her sheer determination and the support of her father, who encouraged her to race, as well as the support from her other male allies who ran with her and protected her while she competed. Her male allies were essential to her success. By 1972, the rules changed to authorize an official women’s race. Acknowledgment of women and girls’ contributions Being an ally is not a title, an honor certificate, or a status symbol. Calling oneself an ally does not exempt from criticism or scrutiny. The biggest test for male allies is their ability to acknowledge women and girls’ contributions so that they receive the recognition due to them. This can entail deliberately stepping aside so that a woman can speak directly to the target audience using a male ally’s platform. The platform allows the attention to shift to the woman, and the audience can then recognize her expertise and contribution to the issues at stake. Male allies should resist the urge to speak on behalf of women unless specifically requested to do so. For a long time, contributions of women to science, politics, social justice, and other spheres of life were hidden, rarely praised, or mentioned in passing. Women’s achievements in careers were eclipsed by their partners or considered secondary when discussing or reporting them. Initiatives like the Pioneer African Women in Law Project and Amandla African Women in Law Speaker Series are actively working to publicize African women’s contributions in law. Male allies in the media or in leadership positions can correct this “absence” of women by ensuring they give attention to women’s successes and publish them in a comprehensive rather than casual way. Nigeria’s Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti was a political mobilizer and played a prominent role in Nigeria’s campaign for independence, yet many school books listed her key achievement as the first woman to drive a car in Nigeria with little reference to her political career. Many institutions including the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have since placed this remarkable woman’s achievement in its Women in African History series for all to discover online. Fundamentally, male allies must recognize that men and women are equal. This is the minimum standard without exception or conditions. If we are going to close the gender gap and reduce GBV, women cannot work alone. Men need to share the burden to make this a reality. Osai J. Ojigho is a feminist, human rights expert, gender equality advocate, and civil society leader. She sits on the Global Advisory Council of the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL).
President Zuma and the Woman Judge: An ‘illustration of textbook misogyny*
By Prof. Penelope Andrews Professor of Law, New York Law School and IAWL Board Member In 2006, Jacob Zuma, during a trial in which he was accused of rape, was at the receiving end of a strong rebuke from a white male judge for having unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who was not his regular partner — in short, for showing contempt for women. In response, Zuma was rather submissive and repentant. He was acquitted of the charge. Nearly 20 years later, he receives another strong admonishment from a judge for showing contempt for the rule of law. This time it is a black female judge, backed by six of her colleagues. Instead of deference or repentance, we witness a backlash. Acting Chief Justice Sisi Khampepe, a judge with an impressive legal pedigree, is at the receiving end of a vitriolic sexist outburst, with the judgment that she penned being described by the Jacob Zuma Foundation as “judicially emotional and angry”. Such a response — to attach emotional motivation for the actions or words of professional women — is an illustration of textbook misogyny. It reduces women to emotional beings and reinforces the trope about women as hysterical or irrational, devoid of intellect. Attacks on judges are hardly new in South Africa. Attacks on the judiciary started shortly after Zuma became president in 2008, with Gwede Mantashe, then secretary general of the ANC, referring to judges as “counter-revolutionaries”. Others, such as the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Julius Malema, have been quite adroit at constant attacks against the judiciary while frequently approaching the courts for adjudication on a range of matters, ironically dependent on judges to carry out their adjudicatory functions without fear or favour. Judges should not be beyond reproach. But criticism of judges should not be ad-hominem and personal. They ought to be directed at and located in decisions that judges make after a deliberative process, which are justified through judicial reasoning and analysis and which are explained in the judgment. This is exactly what Khampepe and the majority did in the decision of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma v Secretary of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture & Others. Even if one does not agree with their decision, criticism should be directed at the reasons provided. Personal attacks on judges, as opposed to critiques of their judgments, serve no purpose other than demeaning the judiciary, an important pillar of South Africa’s hard-fought and fragile constitutional democracy. Such attacks may also result in the rule of law itself being undermined. Attacking Khampepe’s decision as emotional or angry is a standard tactic of those men who have a particular view of women as passive and deferential. For them, independent and assertive women are particularly objectionable. An independent and smart female judge, deliberating on the fate of a man who holds those views, induces an extraordinarily strong reaction from the man. We should not forget the vilification of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo (Kwezi) during the Zuma rape trial and the hate and contempt levelled at her, including effigies of her that were burnt outside of court. What the Zuma foundation appears to forget is that it is dealing not with, as then, a vulnerable woman, who was unable to protect herself and forced into exile, but a powerful woman, the acting chief justice, and the ultimate symbol of the rule of law in South Africa. This is a misstep by the former president and his enablers — and they will be the ultimate losers. * This article first appeared in the Mail and Guardian and is cross-posted here with the permission of the author.
Check out our Latest Digital Archive Containing Seventeen Inspirational Booklets!
We have launched a new digital archive containing seventeen booklets on African Women in Law! The archives are a keepsake for finding inspiration from trailblazing African Women in Law. These booklets are part of our strategic plan of documenting and historicizing the contributions of African Women in Law. Enjoy the read and share! For free downloads, visit: https://www.africanwomeninlaw.com/flagshipreports
Representation of Women in Human Rights Organs and Mechanisms for Ensuring Gender Parity.
Save the day, Tuesday, July 20th from 12:00 - 1:30 PM (EST. Washington DC time) to attend the panel “Current Levels of Representation of Women in Human Rights Organs and Mechanisms: Ensuring gender parity, a discussion on the Report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.” The panel will discuss the recently-published report of the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, which outlines findings on the current levels of representation of women in UN human rights bodies and puts forth recommendations on how to promote and implement gender balance in these organs. This promises to be an enriching conversation with @Jarpa Dawuni, @Nienke Grossman, @Viviana Krsticevic, @Elizabeth Salomon and @Claudia Martin touching upon the current challenges facing women in international law and discussing the report’s proposed roadmap to achieve gender parity in human rights bodies, and we hope that you will join us! *Event sponsored by the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, ASIL's Women in International Law Interest Group, GQUAL, and the Institute for African Women in Law. Register here: https://www.wcl.american.edu/secle/registration?event_id=308747&listonly Read IAWL's report on the High-level Consultative meeting here: Gender Parity in UN Human Rights Bodies.
Webinar: Gender Equality in Law: The Role of M.A.L.E Allies
Join us for a webinar exploring the place of masculinities in law and what roles Men Advocates in Law for Equality (M.A.L.E) Allies can play to make the legal profession equitable, inclusive, and sensitive to gender issues. Date: July 15th, 2021 Time: 9am US(ET)/1pm Accra/ 2pm Lagos/ 3pm J'Burg/ 4pm Nairobi Pre-register at: https://bit.ly/3AlwV8y At IAWL, we believe that when women and men work in unity, and in solidarity, we can achieve gender equality. M.A.L.E is our #GenderSolidarity campaign with the vision of igniting individual and organizational transformation towards achieving gender equity in the legal profession. Join us for a conversation on how we can achieve gender equity in the legal professions across Africa.
Survey of African Women in Law
Expand your professional opportunities with us! As part of our recently launched Experts Network, we are conducting this survey to understand the experiences of women in law and how we can better support your work through our programming. The survey will take less than 8 minutes on average to complete. Your responses will remain anonymous and confidential, and your identity will not be revealed in any outputs. We thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. As our gratitude for your time, we will offer you a complimentary basic membership in our Experts Network. If you would like to receive this membership, please list your name and email address at the conclusion of the questionnaire. You may also sign up directly at www.africanwomeninlaw.com/expert-members. Please direct further questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you. SURVEY FOR JUDGES Please click this link: https://forms.gle/h89maMPZ2PbywAiPA SURVEY FOR LAWYERS Please click this link: https://forms.gle/eEgK2KGWJtQ46Siy6 SURVEY FOR LAW LECTURERS/PROFESSORS Please click this link: https://forms.gle/z6bi2ueCHHD4Dvuv6
Ph.D. Journeys: The only person who should determine what you can or cannot do is you!
By Cecile Tchoujan Dr. Tabeth Masengu is the first person to receive a joint Ph.D. — Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Law from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and Ghent University in Belgium. Dr. Masengu overcame numerous challenges throughout her legal career. She was initially inspired by the O. J. Simpson trial to pursue law, and despite the naysayers, she has remained determined. Some of the most astounding achievements of her career span over more than a decade. In 2006, Dr.Tabeth Masengu graduated Cum Laude from Rhodes University in South Africa and obtained a Bachelor of law. She also was admitted as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa in 2010. She worked in a human rights NGO before obtaining an LLM in Human Rights Law from The London School of Economics and Political Science in 2011. Dr. Masengu was also a Senior Researcher at the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit (DGRU) at the University of Cape Town in South Africa until July 2019. As a researcher, she pioneered and led the gender arm of judicial governance work at the DGRU. She also led the Women Pioneer Program funded by the Norwegian embassy, which seeks to capacitate and empower women law students and magistrates. Lastly, she served as the Southern African Correspondent for the Oxford University Human Rights Hub. Cecile Tchoujan (CT) at the Institute for African Women in Law had a chat with Dr.Tabeth Masengu (Dr. M) regarding her legal journey. In revealing a more comprehensive understanding of Dr.Tabeth Masengu’s career and achievements, the Institute hopes to inspire other women in law. CT: How influential were your resources (i.e., friends, family, professors, etc.) in contributing to your various accomplishments? DR.M: My resources were extremely influential in contributing to my accomplishments. Firstly, my parents have always encouraged me to strive for more, and my siblings have always been part of my cheerleading squad. I have also been blessed with great mentors− both informal and formal. These have been women on the bench, in academia, and in the legal profession. Women from different walks of life who paved the way for me by achieving great things and encouraged me when I felt exhausted. Finally, my friends have been a constant source of encouragement and prayer, and in my latter life, I have been blessed with a husband who celebrates my successes and spurs me on. I would not have achieved what I have without my resources. CT: After earning a Master’s degree, you became a researcher at the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at UCT, where you met your mentor and friend, Professor Caroline Ncube. How did this relationship influence your Ph.D. journey? DR. M: The mentorship was initially suggested by the UCT Research Office because Professor Ncube, like me, was an African foreigner working in academia. She had some challenges during her own Ph.D. journey but had broken great strides becoming a professor at 40. The relationship with Caroline was crucial as she helped me navigate the bureaucracy of academia both professionally and academically. Despite the difference in our research expertise (Caroline is an intellectual property expert), her guidance through my entire journey was commendable. CT: You have previously mentioned that there were naysayers who told you that undertaking a straight Bachelor of Law (LLB) at Rhodes University would be too difficult; how were you able to remain determined during that time? DR. M: I have always been quite determined, and I do not like being told that something is not possible. I also knew the financial burden that was placed on my parents because I undertook studies in South Africa and so completing the degree in the least amount of time was my primary objective. I did not have the luxury of doing a Bachelor’s degree before my LLB. CT: Of your many achievements, what are the three of which you are most proud of? DR. M: Being the first joint doctorate graduate of the University of Cape Town’s Law faculty. Creating the Women Pioneer Program, which was the first project to bring together women LLB students and judicial officers in order to build opportunities for mentorship and capacity building. Being selected as a Scientific Expert for the Council of Europe’s (European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice) study on gender diversity in the recruitment and appointment of judges in its member states. CT: What advice would you give to other young women that aspire to have a career in law? DR. M: I would encourage them to explore, be eager to learn, and expand their horizons. There are so many opportunities available now that were not there during my time. Paid opportunities to intern at regional courts, fellowships with international NGOs, and opportunities to clerk for judges worldwide. Young women should spread their wings and not be content to stay in their country and legal system. Expanding one’s horizons only makes one a richer and fuller lawyer, and then your contribution to your country is that more impactful. Finally, I would advise them to use the naysayers as their platform to achieve. The only person who should determine what you can or cannot do is you!
Chief Justice Irene Chirwa Mambilima: A Legacy of Justice and Service
By J. Jarpa Dawuni, Ph.D. "Chief Justice Irene Chirwa Mambilima, we thank you for your service, your tireless efforts for justice, equity, and women’s rights. Your legacy will forever be remembered. Rest in the peaceful embrace of your maker." J. Jarpa Dawuni The first whatsapp message came at 1:4pm US/ET. In utter disbelief, I quickly called my friend in Zambia who had just sent me the message. I asked her if it was true (and hoping she would say it was not true), but she confirmed it. Soon after, the messages started coming from all over. I began to cry. I called Judge Ann Claire Williams (retired Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh District) to inform her, and she confirmed she had not heard the news. Justice Irene Chirwa Mambilima was the first judge interviewed by Judge Ann Claire Williams for the African Women in Law Legacy Project. We were still in discussions to re-record her interview because the first recording had technical issues which gave us a poor video quality. Chief Justice Mambilima was so kind and generous with her time, and she agreed that she would make the time for us to record it again. Alas, that time will never happen. Chief Justice Mambilima was a pioneer woman in many ways. As the first woman Chief Justice of Zambia, her journey to the top judicial position had been marked with many other successful stories as captured in her pioneer women in law profile. The first of five children, she grew up from humble beginnings, and witnessing the injustice around her spurred her on to pursue a law degree and fight for justice for all. As with all interviewees, Judge Ann Claire Williams posed the final question to Chief Justice Mambilima “what do you want your legacy to be?” How do you want people to remember you? Chief Justice Mambilima responded: “I think from the time I was a High Court Judge up to now, my passion has been only delay reduction, backlog reduction. And when I became Chief Justice, the high courts were inundated with a lot of cases, we had so many delayed cases. So, I did appoint a task force to deal with delayed cases, first find out how many cases do we have? Was it up to 2016? How many cases do we have which haven't been completed? We got all those cases. And then identified a panel of judges. And we came up with more than 4600 cases. And the that was in 2018. I was just being briefed last week that we have disposed of 4300, remaining with 300. That is up to 2018. So why don't we have that effort going on at the same time I'm engaging the judges, so that in the matters, which are now active before the courts, we can apply the new rules which we have just improved upon. And we avoid creating the backlog which we had of this more than 4000 cases. And also in the Supreme Court, I found a lot of backlog of appeals which had not been heard and the judgments which have not been delivered. As I'm talking to you now, we are current on the appeals. We do not have backlog. We are just dealing with what some colleagues left behind those who have gone. So, if you say how do I want to be remembered? When I go? I think I would want to be remembered as a hands-on person. Because my passion is the case flow. Under case management, and backlog and delay reduction, also, I would like to be remembered as a person who had the passion for access to justice. You know, I worry so much with the cost of litigation, and how much the common person is unable to access the judicial services. So, I've been on the neck of the executive, that the court system must really be decentralized to the remotest part, so that people don't have to walk very far, in order to access judicial services, the issue of the computerization, which has become so important now, because of COVID-19. That one, I think I'll leave it to those who are coming after me, because our landscape is such that the digital literacy is not so much advanced. And the women are the ones on the receiving end, most of them are not on any digital platform. So, this is an area which we now have to deal with, in view of the COVID pandemic situation, because if we have to avoid people, meeting unnecessary, doing remote work, I know that thing can happen. But in our landscape, we need to tread very carefully. So, I guess these are my passions, and of course, the GBV issues. Those are my passions, because I could see the derailment of justice in that way. You can decide the case of somebody coming from a toxic environment. Where do you take them after the case is completed? What do you do with them? Yeah, so at least the Act, which was passed the new anti-gender-based violence act, has provided for the creation of shelters, and so forth, to address the issues of those women who may want to leave their abusive environments, and also even the children, they want to leave with.” Chief Justice Mambilima’s passion and legacy extended beyond her work on the bench. Judge Williams pushed her for more by asking a follow-up question; “If I might add one other passion of yours, I think, at least from what I've observed, you are such a good sponsor and mentor to women, and younger judges, and to other people. You know, there were so many hands that extended in your life to help you become what you are. I have observed that you extend your hand to so many and give advice and provide sponsorship and nurturing. Could you just comment on that as well because I've seen that you haven't mentioned that as a passion? Because I've seen what you've done for others.” To which Chief Justice Mambilima responded: “When I mentor the young women, I tell them that, you know, the sky really is the limits. You should not fear to take responsibilities. You know, you can fear from afar. But take these issues head on. As the saying goes, it takes a storm to know who a good sailor is. So, if you're just on the fringes all the time, it won't help but don't fear, to take on challenges, take the challenges, but just understand what it is that you're in for. Understand what is required of you. And look up to people who can assist you to be a strong person, because I believe that everybody has potential, but with us from this part of the world, I think there is this belief that women certain jobs are not for women, they are just for men. So, you'll find that some women are self-defeated even before they begin. Somebody just says, Oh, no, no, no, I can't do that. You know, I can't manage making money if you just understand what it is that is required of you. So, when I mentor the women, I tell them to strive for the best. No, don't limit yourself. Don't limit yourself. Of course, you will meet the toxic people you will meet the doomsayers, but who doesn’t? You can watch the full interview here: https://youtu.be/_XEUVM6KvFA
Re-imagining Agenda 2063 Conference: June 21-24, 2021
The Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) is co-sponsoring this timely conference. Join our Board Member Prof. Penelope Andrews, and IAWL member Justice Nkemdilim Izuako for the four-day conference. Check out the conference schedule and pre-register here: http://blogs.ubc.ca/reimaginingagenda2063/virtual-conference/conference-registration/
Justice M.M. Maya Elected IAWJ Regional Director
*IAWL Justice Mandisa Muriel Lindelwa Maya, President of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa (SCA) and the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (SAC-IAWJ), was elected Regional Director: West and Southern Africa on 7 May 2021, during the Africa Regional Meeting at the 15th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) taking place in Auckland New Zealand from 7 - 9 May 2021.The IAWJ is an organisation that assembles judges from 82 countries and world regions, creating a wide global network devoted to the worldwide exchange of judicial experiences. Justice Maya is the latest appointee from the Africa region and she joins the President Elect of the IAWJ, Justice Binta Nako (Nigeria) and Regional Director East and Central Africa Justice Hanna Okwengu (Kenya). She was nominated for this senior position by the SAC-IAWJ, and seconded by the Botswana International Association of Women Judges National Chapter, under the leadership of the Hon. Justice Sanji Monageng, former Justice of the International Criminal Tribunal, The Hague. Justice Monageng described Justice Maya as “an advocate for gender equality and justice, and the appointment of women in the judiciary.” The nomination was supported by Malawi Women’s Association (WOJAM), which said ‘‘Justice Maya is the perfect candidate and nominee for the position… It is WOJAM’s belief that she will offer IAWJ her knowledge, experience as well as skills due to her vast accomplishments and her commitment to justice especially the rule of law and protection of human rights shall be a huge advantage.” The nomination was further supported by the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL), a global organisation of lawyers dedicated to using the law for positive societal change and development which stands for enhancing the capacity of women for positive change. IAWL's Executive Director, Prof. Jarpa Dawuni, Esq. Ph.D., remarked that “Justice Maya’s professional record, proven integrity, and her tireless advocacy for the rights of women and children is well demonstrated.” Justice Maya holds B.Proc, LLB and LLM degrees and several honorary LLD degrees awarded in recognition of her contribution to the development of jurisprudence in South Africa as well as the empowerment of women in the legal profession and the judiciary. She is a Fulbright awardee; Georgetown University Law & Gender Program; and Commonwealth Foundation Fellow and the recipient of the 2020 Duke University Law International Law Alumnus Award. After teaching law at the former University of Transkei, while also practising at the Transkei Society of Advocates, she became a judge and sat in various divisions of the High Court and the Labour Courts before her elevation to the SCA. She has acted as a judge in the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the Supreme Court of Namibia and the Appeal Court of Lesotho. She promoted law reform as the Chairperson of the South African Law Reform Commission and is a member of the South African Judicial Service Commission, the South African Judicial Institute and the Duke Law Judicial Institute Leadership Council, among other leadership positions. As IAWJ Regional Director, Justice Maya will represent all the members of the South and West Africa region and promote the IAWJ in bilateral and regional fora and promote inter-regional communication and collaboration. ** This statement is cross-posted with permission from an earlier press statement from SAC-IAWJ.
Impact of Covid-19 on Legal Education
By Christine S. Lassey University of Ghana, Legon The coronavirus pandemic has stretched its tentacles into diverse facets of life. The educational sector has been hard-hit by this pandemic. In the early stages, to minimize the transmission rate, schools were completely shut down. In time, stakeholders began to explore alternative means of teaching and learning to save what was left of the academic year in 2020. This development introduced new teaching modules for most higher learning institutions across the world. Legal education, like other sectors, has been destabilized by the pandemic, which has exposed inherent problems and introduced new ones. The Dilemma of the Law Student In his masterpiece “Learning the Law,” Glanville Williams opined that a good lawyer knows where to find the law. During this pandemic, law students have been thrown into oblivion with no roadmap on where to find the law. In March 2020, most law faculties adopted the online module of teaching and learning. The antecedent problems of online education began to surface. First, students were unable to access adequate online legal databases to facilitate research. Prior to the pandemic, students customarily relied on texts in the library for academic research. The General Legal Council of Ghana, which is mandated in the Legal Profession Act, 1960, Act 32 to ensure quality legal education, reported in 2020 that some law faculties did not have sufficient volumes of law reports in their libraries or e-libraries. The pandemic has exposed the inefficiency of some schools in this regard. In reality, most students are “information-starved” and compelled to rely on inefficient case reviews on the internet for research. Some law faculties have not invested in online databases like Hein Online, Westlaw, or LexisNexis. Second, unequal access to technological tools and internet connection affects the online learning space. The harsh economic disparity in society means that law students who cannot afford laptops or mobile devices or reside in rural areas with poor internet connection are unduly prejudiced. Their frustration is compounded when they are required to take exams online with little or no assurance that they will submit within the stipulated time. Further, duty bearers must throw the spotlight on the digital needs of women in our law faculties. The issues posed by new learning modules may prima facie appear to be gender-neutral. However, a critical probe into online education's intricacies exposes the digital barrier confronted by women in their legal education. Women living in low or middle-income-earning countries such as Ghana are on average ten percent less likely to own a mobile phone than men and twenty-six percent less likely to use mobile internet. Women in law may be deprived of technological tools or internet connection, both of which are essential for quality education during and after COVID-19. Furthermore, due to the lockdowns initiated across the world, the 2020 academic year was delayed. As a result, educational stakeholders reviewed the academic calendar to minimize that delay’s adverse effects, but students were left to suffer the brunt of their decisions. Initially, teaching and learning in the LLB program lasted approximately eleven to fourteen weeks in a semester. This gave teachers and students ample time to teach and learn at a good pace. Now, most schools have adopted an abridged academic calendar, with double learning hours. The challenge is that most schools have not down-sized their syllabus to accommodate this period's pressing needs. The role of women in the family exacerbates the strain of online learning. Unlike their male counterparts, women are saddled with the extra responsibility of combining their duties at home with an accelerated academic calendar's demands. The pandemic has also shifted assessment styles and extra-curricular opportunities in law schools. Before the pandemic, law schools in Ghana employed in-person teaching and traditional assessment modules. Often, students were required to sit an exam at the end of the semester, which constituted a hundred percent of the final grade. Some stakeholders have criticized this approach because it is inefficient and does not reflect students' true standards. Also, an archaic content-driven approach to teaching was the status-quo. Students were burdened with the onerous duty of sifting through hundreds of books to regurgitate them during an exam. Instead, continuous assessment modules are encouraged because they provide both faculty and students with feedback on teaching and learning effectiveness. Practical methods of teaching like writing labs and community outreaches were non-existent. In response to the pandemic, most of the law faculties have adopted online teaching and learning and continuous assessment. However, extra-curricular activities like moot-court competitions and internships have also been taken off the radar for law students because students are swamped with academic work in an abridged semester. Also, in line with government directives, most firms are operating virtually. However, the majority of law firms provide only in-person internship opportunities to law students. In essence, students are deprived of the essential practical internship experience during this pandemic. The Way Forward In conclusion, a famous African adage is to the effect that “you can force a horse to the riverside, but you cannot force it to drink water.” The legal education system is that horse that has been forced to the riverside of reform. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic does not give it any other option but to drink. The pandemic is a catalyst for reform. The legal profession and education must embrace reform and not hide under the cloak of conservatism. Stakeholders ought to reflect on the problems compounding legal education and posit solutions that do not compromise quality. This pandemic has taught the legal fraternity some valuable lessons. The teaching staff in law schools must be oriented in the use of modern technological tools. Students should be given sufficient data allowances and schemes instituted to procure laptops for needy students and women. Legal resources should be provided to assist students with research and academic syllabi should be reviewed to deal with this pandemic's challenges and any future effects that may arise as a result of this pandemic or future unforeseen emergencies.
The African Court: From the Politics of Gender to the Gender of Politics?
By J. Jarpa Dawuni, Ph.D. & Sègnonna H. Adjolohoun, Ph.D.* In September 2018, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR or the Court) made history by swearing in two female judges, thereby bringing the Court’s composition to six women out of its 11 judges. The Court had thus achieved a female majority bench for the first time since its inception in 2006. The symbolic representation of women judges made the bench the most gender-balanced of all times. While women currently make up 55% of judges on the ACtHPR, they account for 35% of all judges since the Court was established, and only 20% of the leadership in the institution (ie, two women have served in the Bureau versus eight men). In the following discussion, we analyze why women’s symbolic representation has not translated into their substantive leadership within the Court. We query whether the changes introduced to the Rules of Court in 2020, will be a catalyst for a sustainable women’s representation in the Court’s Bureau in the elections slated for 31 May 2021. Achieving Gender Parity The women majority bench of the Court is an achievement of an electoral policy adopted within the political sphere of the African Union, including at the helm, by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government (AHSG). The policy is firstly grounded in treaty law as reflected in Article 14(3) of the Court Protocol, which provides that “In the election of the judges, the Assembly shall ensure that there is adequate gender representation”. This statutory commitment was subsequently translated into a Decision of the Executive Council of the African Union, which expressly prescribing that, in addition to the geographical representation, “at least one member from each region should be a woman” and further directing that “the modality shall become effective immediately”. In implementing this Decision during the July 2016 summit held in Kigali, Rwanda, the policy organs postponed the elections of judges for the southern and eastern regions after nominating Member States had filed male candidatures for the concerned seats. The African Union Commission thereafter put these norms into practice under procedural electoral rules as consistently stated in the Note Verbales transmitted to Member States by the Office of the Legal Counsel ahead of every election of judges to the Court. Prior to achieving gender parity by statutory requirement as earlier explained, the ACtHPR itself had portrayed a predisposition to gender sensitivity by electing two women judges to the Bureau. Justice Sophia A. B. Akuffo of Ghana was first elected as Vice-President in 2008, reelected in 2010, and then as President in 2012; while Judge Elsie Nwanwuri Thompson of Nigeria was elected as Vice-President in 2014. The Bureau Established under Article 21 of the Court Protocol, the Bureau of the Court shall consist of a President and a Vice-President, each elected among current judges for a two-year term, renewable once for another two years. The Bureau is responsible for the administrative components of the Court. Since the 2016 Executive Council’s equal representation was applied, only male judges have been elected to serve in the Bureau of the ACtHPR despite the growing number of women joining the Court’s bench. Pursuant to Rule 11(6) of the 2020 Rules of Court, the next election of members of the Bureau is scheduled to take place on 31 May 2021, which is the first day of the 61st Ordinary Session of the Court. Will the female majority of the bench translate into a gender-balanced leadership within the Bureau? In other words, has the politics of achieving gender parity led to a stagnation in women’s (non)representation in the Bureau rather than promoting their substantive and sustainable representation as could have been expected? *For both tables, we count the leadership positions by gender and not the number of times a person has held the position. Beyond gender representation Hanna Pitkin’s seminal work on the Concept of Representation has directed much of the discourse on our understanding of women’s representation—formalistic, descriptive, symbolic and substantive. The 1995 United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing emphasized a 30% floor benchmark for women’s representation for meaningful change to happen. It is argued that at 30%, there is a critical mass of women to set in motion institutional cultural change towards having gender inclusive policies and outcomes. A plethora of existing international frameworks such as Goal # 5 of the UN SDGs, and Article 8 of CEDAW provide a normative basis for the right of women to participate in international organisations. Crucial to the African context is the the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), which provides in Article 9(2) for the right of women to hold leadership positions, to “ensure their effective representation at all levels of decision-making”. In a more strategic commitment, the African Union Agenda 2063, specifically Goal #5, has a target to achieve “an Africa whose development is people driven, relying on the potential offered by people, especially its women and youth and caring for children.” Through these international instruments, women’s representation must be guaranteed and all efforts made to ensure the realization of their leadership potential in all institutions including judicial ones such as the ACtHPR. Representation must therefore mean much more than just presence. Consequently, we argue that the empirical analysis of women’s representation in international courts must involve their substantive representation in leadership positions including in the ACtHPR. The International Criminal Court (ICC) showed that it is possible to have women in leadership—including an all-female presidency in 2015 with Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi of Argentina as President, Judge Joyce Aluoch of Kenya as First Vice-President and Judge Kuniko Ozaki of Japan as Second Vice-President. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child have both achieved women majority compositions of 7 out 11 members; and the Commission has so far had two all-female Bureaux. In an earlier article, Beyond the Numbers: Gender Parity on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights — A Lesson for African Regional Courts?, it was argued that the gains made in reaching a gender balanced bench at the ACtHPR should not be seen at the penultimate goal to achieving gender equality within the institution, including at the highest level. Similarly, in a cautious celebration of the gender parity of the ACtHPR in 2017, emphasis was placed on the need to take women’s representation “beyond the political discourse.” We believe that this ultimate goal of moving from a mere symbolic presence to substantive representation can be achieved through a corresponding presence of women in the Bureau. The ACtHPR must be commended for achieving gender balance within a relatively short span of a decade since it was established, compared to the International Court of Justice for instance, which, in 75 years, still has only 3.7% of women represented on its bench. In fairness, credit should first be apportioned to the African Union for designing a revolutionary gender policy. Having said that, credit should also go to judges of the Court for giving life to the policy by electing the two women judges who have so far led the institution as president and vice-president respectively. Noteworthy, the Court had its only two women judges in leadership positions at times when their men counterparts held the bench majority. Arguably, this trend was reinforced in the recent normative standards of the Court. In its 2010 Rules, the Court only took a formalistic approach to gender by repeatedly referring to the Bureau members as “he/she”.[i] However, under the 2020 Rules, a full provision is devoted to prescribing that “in the composition of the Bureau, the principles of gender parity, … and a rotation system shall, as far as possible, be observed”.[ii] Notwithstanding these commendable developments, there is an urgent need to move the discussion further by examining whether the statutory standards will expand opportunities for sustainable women leadership in practice. Women in leadership - What the numbers tell us Since the ACtHPR began its operation in 2006, women have accounted for only 20% of the judicial leadership positions, one time as president, and three times in the vice-president role. The fact that leadership involvement in the Court may not be limited to its Bureau is not overlooked. Thus, while women judges could preside over any of the committees or working groups that the Court may establish to facilitate its work, the bench level majority should be the standard for measuring substantive leadership representation. Notably, and arguably due to limitations in the Court Protocol, deliberations of any such committees are subject to the adoption of the plenary.[iii] Expanding opportunities for leadership The gender inequity in leadership in the ACtHPR can be viewed by assessing election practices in two eras. Under the first era governed by the 2010 Rules of Court, women’s representation did not translate into the internal governance of the institution arguably because the Court’s Protocol only provided for “adequate gender representation”.[iv] The African Union AHSG was therefore neither bound by equality nor by equity, and the Court itself therefore likely took a minimalist approach to women’s representation in leadership rules. However, as earlier discussed, the then men majority Court took a progressive approach by electing women in leadership positions. The second era of what we call the ‘politics of gender’ began, we argue, with the adoption of the 2020 Rules of Court. The prescription for “gender parity” of the Bureau under Rule 10(2) of the said Rules is unprecedented in the operation of the Court. The first post-2020 Rules election is the one slated to be held on the first day of the 61st Ordinary Session of the Court (May-June 2021) and one therefore awaits to see whether the politics of gender will translate into a gender of politics. One of the most significant developments under the 2020 Rules of Court, is the nomination process under Rule 11. Judges will now be notified of the vacancies 45 days prior to the election, and may nominate fellow colleagues while nominees are required to formally accept nomination and submit an undertaking to take up the post should they be elected. The list of candidates is then circulated 15 days to the election arguably for sufficient notice, and engagement, ahead of the poll date. Although none of these provisions is expressly gender framed, they introduce processes that strongly purport commitment, publicity, and campaigning. Such processes are channels that may serve in advocating for a purposive implementation of the new “gender parity” trend brought by the 2020 Rules of Court. Why women in leadership matters Institutional cultures develop over time. Dynamic institutional cultures are critical to the development and advancement of any institution. The ACtHPR started off with what appeared to be a gender-inclusive leadership culture, which must now be capitalised into a systematic and sustainable institutional practice. While we can spend our time detailing the legal and moral arguments why women in leadership positions matter, we argue that women in leadership matter for the simple yet profound reason that women must not carry the burden of justifying their right to leadership. Judge Julia Sebutinde makes a strong argument in the context of symbolic representation: For over seventy years there have been predominantly male judges serving on the International Court of Justice, yet nobody ever asks those kinds of questions when it comes to men. Why should the female judges serving on the Court have to justify or validate their presence or role on the Court? As long as we meet the statutory qualifications and are duly elected, we have as much right to sit on that Bench and to participate in the settlement of State disputes, without having to validate or justify our presence there with “value addition,” period.[v] Merit does not have to have a male face. A socio-legal approach requires an expansive definition of merit to include the broad range of skills and talent women bring to the table. If women judges have the merit to be on the bench, they must have the merit to serve in leadership roles, without having to justify the “difference” they will make in those positions of leadership. In 2006, Justice Sophia A. B. Akuffo of Ghana was among the first batch of five judges appointed to the ACtHPR. From Akuffo’s account of the initial interactions among the judges, gender sensitivity appeared to be an issue within the Court from its genesis: As operations of the Court progressed, issues of gender equality came to the fore. Akuffo noticed that the male judges were uncomfortable with how confidently the female judges expressed themselves-particularly when they disagreed with the male judges on pertinent issues (p. 103).[vi] To address these challenges, and to create a critical mass of women on the ACtHPR, Justice Akuffo made it a point to call on governments to search for, and nominate women to the Court: As President of the Court, Akuffo consistently impressed upon the Member States of the African Union to fulfill the protocols relating to gender parity by nominating more women to the Court. Oftentimes, the Member States chose to nominate male judges instead of female judges. In Akuffo’s final report for the Court, she encouraged the Member States to fill her position, when vacated, with a female judge as there were many highly qualified female judges on the continent (p. 103).[vii] Her plea has certainly been heard as witnessed by the increasing number of women elected to the ACtHPR over the years. Besides, the Court appears to have evolved notably with respect to the participation of women judges. If women judges’ contribution to the Court’s jurisprudence is anything to go by, the significance of separate and dissenting opinions filed by them speaks for itself.[viii] Conclusion The election of the next president and vice-president of the ACtHPR will no doubt mark a true test of whether the principles and norms of gender equality are having a real impact in transforming the institutional culture of the Court. Gender equality on the bench of the ACtHPR must move beyond symbolic representation of women, to more substantive representation evidenced in the leadership roles they play within the administration of the Court. Noteworthy, the current female majority could shift to a male majority in 2022 with the next election of judges, given that the rotating seat that helped achieve female majority is based on geographical equity and attributed without any mandatory adherence to a gender rule. Thus, the judges on the Court should seize the upcoming election as an opportunity to advance women’s representation in leadership roles in the institution. Against the foregoing discussion, we examine in our forthcoming article, whether the current gender capital of the ACtHPR is an end or a means to addressing gender related issues as far as human rights justice in Africa is concerned. In other words, three years after gender parity was achieved, has the female majority bench led to a gender-inclusive institution? * J. Jarpa Dawuni, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Political Science at Howard University and the founder and Executive Director of the Institute for African Women in Law. *Sègnonna H. Adjolohoun, Ph.D. is Extraordinary Lecturer and Visiting Professor of Human Rights and Comparative Constitutional Law, University of Pretoria & Central European University. (The analyses made in this article are only the academic views of the author). [i] See eg, Rules 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the 2010 Rules of Court.
[ii] See eg, Rule 10(2) of the 2020 Rules of Court.
[iii] See Art 26 of the 2020 Rules of Court.
[iv] See Art 14(3), African Court Protocol.
[v] See Nienke Grossman. (2018). Julia Sebutinde: An Unbreakable Cloth. In Dawuni, J and Kuenyehia, A (eds.), International Courts and the African Woman Judge: Unveiled Narratives. Routledge Press.
[vi] See, Kuukuwa Andam and Sena Dei-Tutu (2018), “Sophia Akuffo: Balancing the Scales of Justice”, in Dawuni, J and Kuenyehia, A (eds.), International Courts and the African Woman Judge: Unveiled Narratives. Routledge Press.
[viii] The authors offer a deeper analysis on this question in their forthcoming article.