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IAWL Celebrates International Day of Peace 2023 What does peace mean to you? Amid the crisis some parts of the African continent are facing, is peace simply the absence of war or is there more to peace than we have always thought? The United Nations sets aside the 21st of September as Peace Day each year to reinforce the importance of peace in our world and observe 24 hours of cease-fire and non-violence. The theme for this year is “Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the Global Goals”. This theme calls on us to rise up and contribute towards creating a world of peace, free from conflict, inequality and injustice. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in his message to mark the day, said: “ ... People and our planet are in crisis. Conflicts driving record numbers of people from their homes,... poverty, inequalities and injustices, mistrust, division and prejudice. This year’s theme reminds us that peace is not automatic. Peace is the result of action, action to accelerate progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals and ensure that no one is left behind.” IAWL’s Actions Toward Global Peace Today, on International Peace Day, we are privileged to present our vision for both our continent and the world. Our dedication to fostering peace is deeply ingrained in our mission, which is to empower women in law and promote women’s leadership in justice systems. Through this commitment, we aim to create a culture of institutional peace through principles of gender equality and gender solidarity. We believe a peaceful world is possible through the promotion of justice and empowerment. Therefore, we focus our efforts on increasing the capacity of African women in law through: Rigorous research on issues concerning women in law, including identifying the challenges that women in law face; Training to empower African women in law through professional development webinars and symposia; Advocating for meaningful policy adoption or reform to end discrimination and include women’s voices in the decisions that determine our future; and Mentorship to encourage a culture of collaboration and nurturing among women in law. This unique focus provides us with an opportunity to bridge the gap of inequality in the legal profession, contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goals #5 and #16 To achieve this, we are empowering African women to to participate actively in their societies. We believe African women are a powerful and essential part of the global peace movement. To us, part of peace is when African women’s voices are heard, and their rights are protected. From law students to seasoned professionals, we strive to create a safe and inspiring environment and a space for mentorship, collaboration and knowledge-sharing. Dear Women in Law, peace begins with us! In line with this year’s theme for #PeaceDay, we call on you to strive towards a peaceful and just world. Let us set an example of how African women in law can lead the movement to achieve the Global Goals and build a world that respects the rule of law and ensures equal access to justice for all. Happy Peace Day! Peace begins with you.
IAWL Condemns Sexual Harassment Case at the Faculty of Law at the University of Calabar, Nigeria.
PRESS STATEMENT 30th August 2023 WASHINGTON, DC: On Monday, 14 August 2023, female students of the Faculty of Law at the University of Calabar in Nigeria, with some of their male colleagues, protested against gender-based exploitation and harassment in their department by their Dean of Law, Prof. Cyril Ndifon. Professor Ndifon was previously accused of sexual misconduct in 2015. The school authority subsequently suspended him after he was alleged to have raped a 20-year-old law student in his office. Eventually, his suspension was lifted under mysterious circumstances. In other African universities, sexual harassment and misconduct by male faculty and sometimes male students are rampant. There have been several cases of sexually predatory behavior reported by female students at Makerere University in Uganda, the Rhodes University in South Africa, the Kaduna State University, the University of Lagos and the University of Port-Harcourt in Nigeria, just to name a few. In most cases, victims are afraid to speak up because society insults and tags them as enemies of progress of men of “reputable” standing. Over the years, social media has helped some of these cases come to light. But many more cases have been buried for fear of being doubted, insulted or humiliated. At the Institute for African Women in Law, we are committed to ensuring that the rights of women in law of all ages are fully respected and protected. We commend the action taken by the law students at the University of Calabar and urge the university to take stronger action this time. We call for an immediate and thorough investigation into the allegations and an open and transparent review process of the circumstances surrounding them. We also call on governments, policymakers and stakeholders to ensure institutions operate with the necessary sexual harassment policies to check the prevalence of Gender Based Sexual Violence. In our four-country Women in Law and Leadership reports , we highlighted that sexual harassment, both covert and overt, is one of the main challenges women in law at the bench, bar and legal academy face in their professions. It is, therefore, disturbing that even the educational institutions meant to provide an ideal environment for learning and growth, especially in the faculty of law, have harbored this menace for years. The effect such acts have on students should be taken into consideration to appreciate the importance of addressing the issue. Some students go on to do well, but some fail their courses unjustly, preventing them from graduating and realizing their full potential in the careers they desire to pursue. It is high time that we all take action to protect the rights, safety, progress and future of African women in law. We encourage victims of sexual harassment in universities and legal institutions not to be afraid of intimidation and backlash and to speak up against the injustice meted out to them. It is our expectation that such action will eventually restore faith in our educational and legal institutions and create a safe environment for women in law.
Women, Resilience, and the Will to Lead
by Linda Kasonde My book, ‘ Women, Resilience, and the Will to Lead ’, tells the story of my journey into leadership, from my upbringing as a child to a chance encounter with a classmate who made me realize that just putting oneself forward is half the battle in becoming a leader. My story is intertwined with political events in Zambia from 2011 to 2021, which saw my country on the path to democratic decline, and the role I played to try and restore Zambia’s democracy. It touches on difficult topics such as losing a child, mental health, and the sexism faced by women in leadership. It ends with a list of lessons that I have learnt over the years and a call to arms for more women to embrace taking up leadership positions. The book documents my experiences as the first elected female President of the Bar Association in Zambia and how I managed to negotiate my way through a social context characterized by deep-seated patriarchy and misogyny. I believe that the book will go a long way in challenging the current thinking that favors men and stereotypes women as incapable of running a successful election campaign, providing effective leadership, and overcoming the many social obstacles that work against them. In Zambia, much of the conversation around gender equality and women’s empowerment centers on promoting women without enough work being done on creating safe spaces for them to express themselves or assert themselves as leaders. I would like to work on a movement that will mainstream the gender conversation, one that is too often occupied by women speaking to converted women. Men need to play a larger role in this area for real change to happen more quickly. Why is this important? Inequality leads to misogyny, which in turn leads to injustices such as gender-based violence, hate speech, and rape. It also means that many women do not meet their full potential. As I have previously stated in one of the articles that I have written advocating for the protection of women leaders from sexual harassment, and particularly cyberbullying: “What we miss out on when women are denied a seat at the table is that different perspective. When women decide to use their voices by taking up leadership positions, they face much more ridicule, intimidation, and abuse than men in leadership positions. This either diminishes their voice or silences them. That creates problems for all of us because it means that we are lacking a diversity of ideas. Democracy thrives when the marketplace of ideas thrives. When that pool of ideas is limited, so are the number of potential solutions to our problems” . Not only will inclusion affirm the equality of women and men in terms of leadership capabilities, but it will also ensure that those women leaders represent the various rights and interests of all women in society. This book is important because, in the words of Stella M. Nkomo and Hellicy Ng’ambi in their 2009 article for the International Journal of African Renaissance Studies entitled, ‘African Women in Leadership: Current Knowledge and a Framework for Future Studies’: “While the empirical literature on leadership and management in Africa is sparse, the literature on African women in leadership is even sparser”. Particularly, little is written about being an African female leader in the digital age. So often, African women in positions of leadership have to rely on Western Knowledge literature about leadership. So often, the thinking is that nothing can be learned from Africa by people living in other continents. This book aims to dispel that myth. I am a woman leader that has straddled leadership both in the private sector as a partner in a leading law firm and in public service at the helm of a highly influential organization that had an impact on the social and political discourse in my country. Subsequently, I understand the challenges of leading and winning the confidence of the public and those I led whilst having to navigate the challenges of patriarchy and misogyny. I have stated on many occasions, echoing what other female leaders, like former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, have said: in order to attain gender equality, we need a critical mass of women leaders so that things outside our competence and intelligence become less important. I have also argued that in order to build that critical mass, the pioneers and the radicals need to draw in the masses. I consider myself to be both a pioneer and perhaps a radical. Through this book, I aim to show more African women that being a leader is doable once you appreciate the strategies to mitigate the risks of it. Having that critical mass of women leaders makes it much easier for women like me to lead in our chosen endeavor. Linda Kasonde (@LindaKasonde) is a Zambian human rights lawyer and activist. She is a Tutu Fellow and the winner of the 2017 IE University’s EPIC Award for Women Making a Difference in the IE Community. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Chapter One Foundation, an organization that promotes and protects human rights and the rule of law in Zambia. For more information on her, see https://lindakasonde.com/ . The book will be available on Amazon and Kindle from 25th August 2023. Subscribe to the IAWL mailing list to receive the latest updates on our future programming and releases. For media inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Introducing: IAWL Achiever Series
The Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) has launched the IAWL ACHIEVERS Series, a platform designed to highlight the success and breakthrough stories of women in law in its networks. IAWL is truly proud of its members who have made and continue to make remarkable strides in their respective fields of expertise. By awarding individual excellence and accomplishments, the IAWL Achievers Series will empower and encourage more women in the legal field to reach their greatest potential and make their voices heard. Through this initiative, we acknowledge the effort our members put into rising as leaders and changemakers in the legal space, especially as African women. To be featured, the submission must meet the following criteria: 1. Demonstrate how joining the IAWL network aligned with achieving career goals 2. The award/feat must have been achieved within six months of submission. 3. The achievement must be a result of your membership in an IAWL network: i.e., you must have received the recognition by virtue of being part of the network or by seeing the opportunity via an IAWL announcement to members of the networks. We are now officially accepting nominations for the IAWL Achievers Series. We encourage all applicants to submit strong applications to be considered. To apply: Submit an email request to email@example.com with the subject line: IAWL Achievers . In the body, include evidence of the award and links to the publication of the award/achievement, if any. The IAWL Team will review your application and let you know a decision within 7 working days. You or the nominee will be notified by email to complete a form and submit a professional photo if the application is successful. If the application is unsuccessful, you will be informed by email. Do you know someone who embodies the accomplishments of an IAWL Achiever? Are you an IAWL Achiever? Submit an application or nominate someone else today and be part of this wonderful initiative! By submitting an application, IAWL reserves the right to review, accept and publish it in accordance with all necessary protocols. For media inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Her Seat on the Bench: How Mabaeng Lenyai’s journey inspires women in law
Mabaeng Lenyai is a pioneer woman in law. In March 2022, she made history by becoming the first elected female President of the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA). Before this remarkable achievement, she was appointed as an acting Judge at the Gauteng Division of the High Court in Pretoria. This acting opportunity opened her to exploring a career on the bench - a glimpse into the judicial world where she eventually earned a permanent seat. In April 2023, Mabaeng was appointed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) as one of five new judges to join the Gauteng Division of the High Court. Congratulations Mabaeng! She has been appointed based on her extensive experience, enabling her to “hit the ground” running in South Africa’s busiest court. The General Council of Bar’s testimonial about Mabaeng further reveals she is a gem. The Council stated that her appointment “would send a message to the public that the JSC values the appointment of candidates who are able to produce a large number of well-reasoned and well-written judgments across a broad spectrum of legal fields, and who have knowledge and experience beyond the borders of South Africa”. The endorsement rides on the back of Mabaeng’s spectacular output during her days as acting Judge. In South Africa, acting judicial appointments are used to fill temporary vacancies. Though not a formal prerequisite, there is an unwritten code for an aspiring judge to have some acting experience before they are appointed. The 2023 IAWL report found the unofficial acting prerequisite as an entry challenge for women because getting an acting opportunity depends on a person’s network which can be tough for women seeking to join a male-dominated space. This acting appointment requirement is significantly considered by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Some women have written about their acting experiences . The lack of acting experience is often interpreted as a lack of judicial experience and exposure, leading to more women being deemed underqualified. Mabaeng’s acting appointment, like others before her, created a pathway to the judiciary and its leadership. Thus, the more women get acting appointments, the more their chances of securing their seat on the bench and the more cracks are created in the concrete ceiling for women in leadership. Mabaeng’s legal career, which started in 1998 when she was admitted to the bar, has been dotted with many leaps in leadership that have finally landed her in the judiciary. She has previously served as a council member and the Vice-President of the LSSA. She has also served as the Vice President of the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), chairperson of the Northwest branch of the Black Lawyers Association (BLA), secretary general and Deputy President of the National Executive Council of the BLA, and a council member of the Community Education Training center in Mmakau. She also ran her law firm, Mabaeng Lenyai Inc. Mabaeng’s career pathway is trailblazing for many upcoming women in law seeking to chart a unique trajectory because she demonstrates that women can be many things and anything they hope to be, even if it's not all at the same time. The Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) is very proud of Mabaeng’s achievements and continues to cheer her on to go higher up the ladder. Congratulations once again on your appointment to the bench! For communications inquiries, contact email@example.com .
OPPORTUNITY: IAWL IS HIRING!
The Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) is a Washington, D.C. based Pan-African non-profit, non-governmental organization. IAWL is committed to supporting the formidable works of women in law across Africa and the African diaspora. Our goal is to be a focal point for addressing issues across the legal and judicial professions. Are you self-motivated with an acumen for innovative ideas? Are you looking to join a team that promotes justice and equity for women? Are you looking to develop your talent, skills, and networks? The Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) is looking for you: A Program Coordinator . The Program Coordinator (PC) is responsible for facilitating and coordinating all the programs and activities of the Institute. The role includes having control of the different programs of the Institute, building strategic partnerships with organizations, identifying and applying for various grants and creating an internal cohesive strategy and working environment within the organization while liaising with external stakeholders to ensure the seamless implementation of partnerships and agreements. Through these, the PC will contribute to the vision and mission of the organization. Read the full job description and access the application form here: HOW TO APPLY: IAWL is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer Read the position description fully. Click HERE and complete the application form. Send a cover letter, resume, one writing sample (not more than 2000 words), and a list of three references on or before the designated deadline by email to firstname.lastname@example.org Reference “Program Coordinator” in the subject line. Deadline: Monday, 24th July 2023 at 5 pm ET.
THE STATE OF GENDER EQUALITY AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT IN THE JUDICIARY OF THE GAMBIA;
Existing Experience, Best Practice and Identification of Barriers to the Advancement of Women Judges By : Hon. Justice Zainab Jawara. High Court Judge, The Gambia I am honored to be addressing and sharing the experience of the Gambia Judiciary with such an august body. I will briefly give an overview of the state of gender equality in our courts and share our experience. The Gambia is a small State in West Africa. According to the World Bank gender data, in 2021, 8.6% of seats in the Gambian parliament were held by women. The current rate is lower than the average rate in low-income countries. The female share of employment in senior and middle management in the Gambia falls in the third quintile of all countries for which data exists. Despite the marginal numbers of women in senior positions in The Gambia, the Judiciary, as the third arm of Government, has made considerable strides in promoting gender equality within the institution. Today, the Supreme Court is made up of five judges, two of which are female. The Gambia Court of Appeal has an 86% women representation with a female President of the court. The High Court is made up of 46.6% women whilst the magistracy consists of 55% women. With regard to the Sharia/ Islamic Courts, the appointment of women judges in these courts remains controversial in the Muslim world as some schools of thought have the perception that female judges in the Islamic courts may not be in conformity with Islamic teachings. This is discriminatory against women and is contrary to the spirit of gender equality promoted in Islam. Despite this discrimination, the Sharia Courts in the Gambia have recently made considerable progress in the recent appointment of two female judges making a percentage of 6% of female representation in the court. Although a modest progress, this is significant, to say the least. Apart from the Islamic Court, I can say that we are clearly on the path to gender equality in the judiciary of The Gambia. It is important to have a gender-representative bench that not only contributes to enhancing the rule of law in any democracy but also promotes access to justice for the vulnerable in our society. We live in a society where the majority of victims in sexual offense cases are women or children, and it is common knowledge that the stigmatization associated with victims of sexual offenses or gender-based violence makes it hard for them to come forward. We have found that women who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence will naturally come forward and proceed with their trial when their cases are before female judges. Women judges, therefore, play an essential role in the criminal justice system, thereby bringing about the much-needed change in the reporting of gender-based crimes. We cannot be certain as no study has been conducted on whether the decisions of women on the bench have led to the significant and groundbreaking reforms that we have seen in the laws advancing gender equality, but it is safe to say that the large number of female judges and their decisions has had a positive impact on the amendment of the Women’s Act 2015. To illustrate this, there are a number of cases that have played a major role in the reform process, and these are the cases of Karla Keita v Mustapha Dampha, Dawda Jawara v Matty Faye (Unreported) SC CA 023/2016 wherein the superior courts gave trailblazing judgments and laid the foundation for the emancipation of women from the cruelty and violence they always experienced during the process of divorce. Although the number of women that have stepped up to take up judicial appointments is commendable, there are no specific gender-sensitive policies developed to promote gender equality in the Gambian Judiciary. Thus the increase of women in the Court of Appeal may be attributed to the selection of judicial candidates from the high number of women judges in the High Court, and the same goes for the High Court from the Magistracy. This increase has happened because women naturally dominate as legal practitioners in the public service. Even though work on the bench or the public bar is less lucrative than private practice, the regular hours, vacation periods and other perks prove to be more conducive for women juggling work and home life. The progress of women in the Courts has been created by the professional progress of the large number of women who have chosen career paths in public service. Despite the progress made in my country, women judges still face some barriers to their advancement. These include; Gender bias and existing stereotypes that reinforce the idea that women are not suited for judicial positions . Our competence and authority are more likely to be questioned than that of our male counterparts in most cases. We are seen as less likely to give impartial judgments where sexual and gender-based violence cases are concerned; The lack of access to education and training opportunities that are essential for career advancement and continuous professional development; and Cultural and social norms that prioritize male leadership and limit women's access to positions of power still exist. To promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Judiciary, the following best practices should be emulated : Developing and implementing gender-sensitive policies and procedures to increase the representation of women in the judiciary Providing training and mentorship programs to support the career development of women judges Encouraging men to become allies and advocates for gender equality in the judiciary Creating networks and support groups for women judges to connect and share experiences. In conclusion, while the judiciary of The Gambia has made progress toward achieving gender parity, there is still much work to be done to promote gender equality and women's empowerment. Addressing the barriers that prevent women from advancing in the judiciary is essential for achieving gender equality and building more just and equitable societies. I thank you for your kind attention.
Women in Law in Nigeria: Breaking Barriers and Shaping the Future
Women in law in Nigeria have had a unique journey of development as they did not encounter as much systemic resistance during their entrance compared to women in many other African countries. Surprisingly, women’s initial discrimination challenges were from clients and the public, not from their colleagues. However, this challenge did not hinder their progress and growth in the different sectors of the profession (bar, bench and legal academy). The Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) conducted extensive research on women in law and leadership in four countries , including Nigeria. The initiative explored the barriers to entry, points of attrition in the pipeline, barriers to leadership, facilitators of promotion, and progress and trends regarding women’s representation in the legal profession through an intersectional feminist lens. This study highlighted the following key findings. Breaking Barriers The Bar The Nigerian legal profession (bar) is experiencing an increase in the number of women being called to the bar each year. Significantly, many remarkable women are breaking new ground and becoming "firsts" in the legal profession. For example, women are rising to managing partner positions in Nigerian law firms, as highlighted in the IAWL Gender Scorecard for 2023 . Unfortunately, some women choose to exit the legal profession, particularly in the early stages of their careers. Individual factors such as marriage and childbirth often contribute to this decision. Those that stay in the profession face barriers in reaching leadership positions, including: • The procedural requirements for becoming a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN). • Sexual harassment and intimidation in the workplace • Unspoken gender biases and stereotypes against women • The negative implications of COVID-19. • Lack of support for families in the workplace • Limited capacity and self-imposed barriers • Lack of mentoring opportunities • Debilitating patriarchal culture These challenges create shifting "glass ceilings" that women encounter at different stages, resulting in considerable leaks in the pipeline to leadership. The conclusion is clear- there is still much work to be done to increase the number of women at the bar and women senior advocates. The Bench Women in the Nigerian judiciary have made significant progress in attaining leadership roles within the judiciary since the 1990s. The appointment of Mariam Aloma Mukhtar as the first female Chief Justice in 2012 was a moment of celebration and immense pride for women across Nigeria. Despite this win, women in the judiciary still face barriers to reaching leadership positions, including: • Work-life balance • Lack of mentorship and support systems for female judges • The limiting effect of intersecting federal character and indigeneity requirements for promotion • The quest for perfection from women and caseloads leading to burnout • The negative implications of COVID-19 • The limited number of women in the highest leadership positions at the various judiciary levels and certain geographic parts of Nigeria. Interestingly, most female judges in Nigeria oppose quotas or affirmative action to address gender imbalance, believing the promotion system is fair. Yet, barriers to their advancement go beyond gender, including ethnicity and geopolitical factors. The Academy The traditional barriers and discrimination against women in the Nigerian legal academy are slowly fading away- a positive sign that women are being recognized for their talents and expertise in this field. However, in the past 15 years, more stringent requirements have been introduced to the recruitment and promotion process within the Nigerian legal academy. For example, the requirement of a Ph.D., unfortunately, caused many women to leave due to challenges in balancing studies and family. In addition, women in the legal academy in Nigeria face the following barriers to leadership: • Intersectional discrimination in hiring practices • Negative stereotypes about women's leadership abilities • Women's different negotiation and networking skills • Work-life balance • Lack of institutionalized mentoring opportunities • Women's limited capacity to engage with leadership demands, and • Negative impact of COVID-19. Shaping the future Despite the identified barriers, the future for women in law and leadership in Nigeria looks promising. As more women enter the profession, they bring fresh perspectives, diverse experiences, and a commitment to driving positive change. Nigerian law schools are increasingly enrolling more female students, reflecting the shifting dynamics within the profession. The IAWL reports further provide recommendations to facilitate the promotion of women in law to leadership positions, including the following: creating mentoring opportunities, creating work environments that promote work-life balance, conducting gender audits to understand women’s specific needs, turning gatekeepers into male allies, and providing constant leadership training opportunities. These reports are the first step in IAWL's five-year strategic goal to support women in law and leadership in Africa. Through training and advocacy, IAWL will continue to support women in law to thrive and set new standards for excellence in Nigeria's legal landscape. For media inquiries: email@example.com .
IAWL Reports Reveal Cracks in the Concrete Ceiling for Women in Law and Leadership in South Africa
South Africa’s legal profession today is female-strong, having allowed women’s entry 100 years ago in 1923 . With masses of women entering the profession, it is only reasonable to expect that they trickle up the leadership ladder and eventually have equal representation in leadership. Yet, the leadership of South Africa’s legal profession remains predominantly masculine. While there was a glass ceiling for women’s entry into the legal profession, which was relatively easier to shatter in the last century, Dawuni characterized that of the profession’s leadership as a concrete ceiling – requiring women to fight harder to break. IAWL’s 2023 study of women in law and leadership in South Africa’s legal profession revealed that: the bench suffers from deputy syndrome, the bar is plagued with a bottom-heavy trend, and the legal academy is experiencing a strong and growing female leadership in the academy. The deputy syndrome at the bench As of February 2022, women formed 31% of the leadership at the superior courts, forming a critical mass of women needed to drive equal representation of women in the future. The factors explaining women’s increasing numeric strength in leadership are constitutional provisions that require the judiciary to reflect the gender composition of the country, activism by civil society actors, leadership-driven efforts by the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (SAC-IAWJ), and female judges’ self-confidence and other innate leadership traits. Despite this progressive direction, many of the women in judicial leadership are in deputy positions. Multiple factors account for this pattern, although systemic barriers of lack of political will of the executive and lack of commitment to women’s leadership by institutional gatekeepers like the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) rank high. Other barriers that prevent or slow down’s women’s leadership prospects in the judiciary were found to include: the uneven playing field for women due to patriarchal attitudes, work-life balance, sexist practices, and female judges’ personal traits that make them hesitate to pursue leadership. The prevailing deputy syndrome the report identified found expression in the subsequent appointment of Justice Maya as the deputy chief justice. An outcome that has been described as a missed opportunity because her initial nomination for chief justice, which presented South Africa with a golden opportunity to appoint its first female chief justice, was not realized. The implication of the deputy syndrome at the bench is that even though female judges rise to the top of the judiciary’s leadership, they mostly occupy second-in-command positions to their male counterparts - a concrete ceiling indeed! The bottom-heavy trend at the bar The rapid feminization at the bar is not significantly reflected in its leadership. A 2021/22 Lexis Nexis report showed a 5% increase in female legal professionals and a 7% increase in fully female-owned law firms in the last five years. Three elements explain the increase: progressive gender equality laws and policies, institutional efforts to transform the legal profession, including its gender composition, and the increase of women into the various law faculties who eventually graduate to become lawyers. Nonetheless, feminizing the bar’s leadership is slow. There are more female lawyers in associate positions. IAWL’s Genderscorecard, for instance shows that, a s of 2021, 66% of senior associates and 79% of associates in ENS Africa were women, yet only 36% of executive positions went to women. Similarly, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr had no female managing partner, although some women (37%) were directors. Most senior associates (69%) and associates (67%) were women. At the institutional level, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) had not had a female president since its inception in 1998 until March 2022, when Mabaeng Lenyai was elected . A consequence of this bottom-heavy trend is attrition, especially from big law firms, and female lawyers being gaslighted for questioning a differential treatment. Common factors that account for this trend at the bar are society’s perception of women’s abilities and motherhood, the old boy club phenomenon, lack of mentorship and organizational support from law associations, and women’s burden to overperform. These came up in addition to predominant barriers in the existing literature, such as differential treatment of women related to remuneration and career progression, the intersectionality of gender, race and age, sexual harassment, physical, verbal, and/or emotional abuse, and clients’ demands for male lawyers. Together, these form the concrete ceiling that women at the bar must fight to reach the top. A female strong legal academy Among the three sectors, the legal academy’s leadership light shines brightest. Our study showed that women’s representation in the legal academy and its leadership is growing. As of May 2022, there were 25 women in executive and administrative leadership across 17 law faculties: five female deans, eight female deputy deans or school heads, and 12 female heads of departments. The factors leading to the growing trend of women in leadership in the legal academy outnumber that of the bench and bar. They include: Introduction of a new constitutional framework Enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and regulations Introduction of affirmative action Social and cultural transformations on gendered norms and expectations Increasing female enrolment and increased opportunities for (black) women in education Women consider academia a more flexible job option Men no longer seek positions in academia Despite a female strong legal academy, women still face barriers in pursuing leadership due to factors like institutional culture and the lingering “old-boys club”, the high context of legal academia, gender stereotypes and bias about leadership, motherhood and work-life balance, contested opportunities for leadership advancement, women’s mixed view of leadership in academia, the race factor, ageism, sexism, and sexual harassment. Breaking the concrete ceiling The leadership ceiling may be concrete, but it is breakable. It cannot be broken solely by individual efforts; it will take collective efforts. For this reason, the recommendations in IAWL’s report are targeted for each sector. For example, at the bench, institutional gatekeepers, on the one hand, are urged to offer equal opportunities for substantive and acting leadership to level the playing field and make concerted efforts to appoint female judges for head positions and not just second-in-command positions. On the other hand, civil society and advocacy groups are called on to undertake more proactive advocacy before appointments, given their critiques of appointments. At the bar, law firms and organizations were advised to institute measures to advance women’s rise to the top, including training and mentorship programs, shaping clients' demands, and providing fair briefing patterns. It is also recommended that law societies take up more advocacy for women’s leadership. Within the legal academy, women are encouraged to be intentional with their collaborative efforts to overcome research barriers. Higher education institutions should also conduct regular and transparent promotion policy reviews. Each stakeholder playing their part will create the village needed to advance women’s leadership in the legal profession. For media inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Women in Law and Leadership: How Kenya (Almost) got it Right.
Women’s leadership in law in Kenya cannot be complete if it is limited to the judiciary. The women in law and leadership reports by the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) provide robust recommendations on changing the picture of women’s representation in law and leadership in Kenya. Justice Martha Koome was sworn in as the first woman Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya in 2022, joining a long list of women chief justices across Africa . Many analysts have characterized the 2010 Kenyan Constitution as a gender progressive framework that has catalyzed women’s representation in public life, including the appointment of Kenya's first woman chief justice. The IAWL reports on women in law and leadership in Kenya analyzes the intersectional barriers women face in accessing leadership positions in other sectors of the legal professions in Kenya. Presently in Kenya, the offices of the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, Principal Judge of the Employment and Labour Relations Court, Registrar of the Supreme Court, Registrar of the High Court, Registrar of the Environment and Land Court and Registrar of Tribunals, among other courts, are occupied by women. These developments in women’s representation in leadership result from several factors, including the enforcement of legal and constitutional instruments, the shifting gendered norms about women as leaders in public life and the application of meritocratic standards in selection processes. The proactive leadership of seeking qualified women candidates and demands for transparency in the Judicial Services Commission interview practices are also enabling factors. While the appointment of Chief Justice Martha Koome is a significant achievement for women and all Kenyan citizens, more work must be done to ensure gender parity in other areas of the legal profession. Only one woman, Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, has been chairperson of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), making women’s representation only 2% of all chairpersons. Three other women have served as vice chairpersons--- Lucy Kambuni (2003-2005), Carolyne Kamende Daudi (2020-2021) and Faith Moni (2022-2024), accounting for 6% of the vice chair leadership. Women’s representation in the leadership (chair and vice chair) of the LSK since the Law Society was formed in 1948 has therefore been at a paltry 4%. In the legal academy, a few women have served as deans of law schools, including Patricia Kameri-Mbote, Winnie Kamau, Linda Musumba, Ruth Aura-Odhiambo, Sylvia Kang’ara, Fancy Too, and Nelly Wamaitha. No woman has ever been appointed Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney General, or Solicitor General in the public sector. Despite the feminization of the legal and judicial professions in Kenya, with women making up over 44% of the bar, women are still underrepresented in the leadership of the Kenyan bar, legal academy, and public sector. The appointment of Chief Justice Martha Koome is a promising indication that the structural and institutional views of women as leaders in Kenya's legal field are gradually evolving. How long will it take for women to be equally and equitably represented in all sectors of the Kenyan legal profession? In matri-legal feminism , I espouse an African-centered theoretical approach that privileges centering African women’s agency as active actors in public life. Women in Kenya have demonstrated their leadership skills, from their participation in independence movements to their role as economic actors in national development. But more must be done to change the picture of women’s leadership in law. Drawing the curtain Kenya almost got it right as a perfect example of how women’s symbolic (numeric) representation can lead to women’s equal representation in leadership. With women making up over 50% of the judiciary and 40% of the bar, there is hope for an incremental shift towards more women in leadership positions across all sectors. A truly holistic gender-inclusive legal profession in Kenya will require constant shifts in institutional and social perceptions about women’s leadership capabilities, accompanied by the elimination of institutional gatekeeping practices and the political will of the appointing bodies to apply gender-inclusive meritocratic standards. Beyond symbolic representation, women must be prepared to develop leadership skills to bring to the decision-making table. The Institute for African Women in Law’s five-year strategic plan for Women’s Excellence in Law and Leadership (WELL) will support the development of strong pipelines of women leaders across the different sectors of the legal professions. When women rise, their communities and nations rise! For media inquiries: email@example.com .
PRESS RELEASE: IAWL Launches Comprehensive Reports on Women in Law and Leadership
6th June 2023 WASHINGTON, DC: The Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL), a Pan-African organization dedicated to supporting women in law across Africa, has launched ten comprehensive reports on Women in Law and Leadership in four countries—Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal and South Africa. The reports focus on women’s representation in leadership at the bar, the bench, and the legal academy. In addition to the country reports, a Leadership Training Manual provides practical roadmaps for women pursuing leadership in law. The reports form part of IAWL’s five-year strategic Women’s Excellence in Law and Leadership (WELL) Initiative. The reports examined women’s access to positions of leadership in the legal professions; reviewed their retention and intersectional challenges and barriers that lead to attrition from the profession; and provided recommendations on interventions that can promote and facilitate their representation in leadership roles, to meet UN SDG #5 on gender equality. The reports provide a blueprint and recommendations for interventions by policymakers, gatekeepers within the profession, civil society organizations, bar associations, judicial authorities, funding agencies, and other bodies interested in promoting women’s leadership in law. These reports will inform IAWL’s upcoming programmatic interventions to support women’s leadership in law by working with philanthropic organizations and partners in target countries to prepare a leadership pipeline for women in law. At IAWL, we believe that when women rise, their communities rise! Join us in our efforts to amplify the work of African women in law. To view the highlight videos from the country launches in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, visit our Youtube channel. For media and research inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) Participates in the First Meeting of African Women Judges
Women Judges from about 30 African countries gathered in Libreville, Gabon, for the 1st Meeting of African Women Judges. The meeting, held on the 3rd and 4th of May, was organized by the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa (CCJA) and the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Gabon, with the support and participation of UNDP, UN Women and UNODC. African women judges across the continent gathered to reflect on the barriers that prevent women from entering the judiciary, progressing in their careers and their impact on women's constitutional rights. The gathering assessed the representation of African women in the judicial system and made recommendations on the way forward for women judges in leadership. In attendance at this high-level conference was the President of Gabon, His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondiba, who gave an opening address at the official opening ceremony, the President of the Constitutional Court of Gabon, Her Excellency Ms. Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo, as well as the President of the Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Vice-President of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa (CCJA), H.E Mr. Dieudonné Kamuleta Badibanga. Countries represented included Gabon, Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, The Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Angola, Mauritania, Sao Tome, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Benin, Morroco, Mozambique, Benin, Central African Republic and Egypt. On day one of the conference, Atchere Asuah-Kwasi, Director of Operations of IAWL, on behalf of Prof. Jarpa Dawuni, Executive Director, presented on contextualizing the state of women in the judiciary in Africa. The presentation summarized the research on women judges in Africa by the United Nations Development Fund. The presentation also highlighted IAWL’s research and publications on women judges and its commitment to enhancing the capacity of African women in the legal profession. The conference attendees also presented on women judges in their various jurisdictions. Lack of political will, low numbers of women in decision-making, lack of quotas, gender stereotypes of women in judicial roles, culture and religion, and rural divide were some issues raised. Interventions such as training and enhancing capacity, coordination between government agencies, strategies to raise the number of women in leadership positions, implementation of policies that will increase the number of women judges, and eradication of obstacles preventing girls from being educated were also proffered as solutions. It was a great opportunity to have African women judges come together to exchange best practices and learn from each other with the ultimate goal of gender-equal judiciaries in Africa. The conference closed with the “Libreville Declaration” presented by the Secretary General of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa (CCJA). The Declaration is significant as it details commitments by all present towards attaining gender equality in the judiciary. Clause nine (9) of the Declaration expressly mentions and recognizes the commitment to engage The Institute of African Women in Law (IAWL) and other organizations in attaining gender equality. The IAWL supports the movement to increase the number of women judges not only on the bench but in leadership positions. These are positive steps towards attaining SDG five(5) on gender equality and article 8 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol). Subscribe to the IAWL mailing list to receive the latest updates on our future programming and releases. For media inquiries: email@example.com