he struggle to achieve gender equality continues to be visible in a plethora of sectors including in the work and employment world, with women continuing to rise to positions of leadership in their various professions. The legal profession is no exception.
As such, during a three-day webinar organized by PALU (Pan African Lawyers Union) – a continental membership forum of and for individual African lawyers and lawyers’ associations to discuss the agenda for the legal profession in Africa following the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the sub themes discussed was ‘Women in Leadership in the Legal Profession in Africa.’
During this session, the panelists; Professor J. Jarpa Dawuni (Executive Director of Institute for African Women in Law), Ms. Lizzette Robleto (International Programmes Manager, Law Society of England and Wales) and our very own Uganda Law Society president- Ms Pheona Nabasa Wall ably discussed the concept of Women in Leadership in the profession, challenges they faced prior to and following the pandemic as well as the way forward.
According to Uganda Law Society president, Pheona Wall,amongst the challenges faced by women in the profession are; the issue of culture and gender stereotypes, sexual harassment and the gender wage gap between male and female employees.
She also highlighted the challenge of juggling between work and home responsibilities especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic where a number of women have had to telework.
President Wall, who is at the helm of a female dominated leadership of the law society, also explained that in leadership, there is a tendency for women to be held to a higher standard than their male counterparts, something she attributed to gender stereotyping as well as the ‘’obsessive and excessive competition’’ within the legal profession.
As a way forward, she emphasized the need to create a supportive system that enables women to achieve given the vitality of women in leadership.
‘’We need women in leadership to uplift and empower other women’’ she said. This point was reiterated by Professor Jarpa Dawuni who acknowledged the need for role models within the Bar to inspire more women to take up leadership positions.
In discussing the role of law societies in redressing gender inequality within the profession, President Wall emphasized the need to address barriers that prohibit women from rising to positions of leadership through policy framework that seeks to promote gender equality.
She also mentioned the need to get ‘he for shes’ or ‘male champions of change’ on board in the fight towards gender equality.
In this regard, Ms. Lizzette on her part stressed the need to adopt a more holistic approach to improve the situation for example by creating work spaces to cater for women’s needs such as work spaces for nursing mothers.
Professor Dawuni on her part highlighted the fact that the African Court of Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) has the highest inclusion of women litigators among regional courts but emphasized the need to discuss how more opportunities can be opened up for women to rise to leadership at the bar.
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