Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Leading African law firm Bowmans is using its on-the-ground African presence to strengthen the fight against gender-based violence and gender discrimination, as well as to address other human rights and social justice issues on the continent.

In the past year its lawyers in South and East Africa have taken on pro bono projects intended to address female genital mutilation, online harassment of female journalists, the gender pay gap and obstacles to education for girls, among others.

‘Across our offices, our lawyers have thrived on the opportunities they received to work together on global and African research projects aimed at understanding and finding solutions to these and other pressing social justice issues,’ said Ezra Davids, Bowmans chairman and managing partner, launching the firm’s 2022 Pro Bono and Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Report.

He said legal research conducted by lawyers in Bowmans’ Kenyan practice has been included in the UNESCO/International News Safety Institute’s ‘know your rights’ guide for female journalists experiencing online harassment.

Highlighting another international project, Davids said Bowmans’ lawyers in Kenya, Mauritius, South African, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia had researched the use and impact of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in these jurisdictions. This research was included in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2021.

These and other pro bono projects have the potential to help bring about real change. For example, legal research that Bowmans’ Ugandan practice conducted on anti-female gender mutilation (FMG) legislation and reforms in Kenya and Uganda has been included in an advocacy toolkit aimed at reforming FMG laws in three Nigerian states.

Other noteworthy cross-border pro bono projects were the research and advice provided by Bowmans’ Tanzanian practice on the education rights and education financing of girls in Tanzania, and the South African practice’s work on gender pay reporting. The latter was part of a project undertaken by the United Nations Foundation working with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership.

In the sphere of LGBT+ rights, a major development in mid-June 2021 was the South African Constitutional Court’s judgment on the seminal hate speech case, in the matter of Qwelane vs South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Another. ‘Bowmans pro bono client, SAHRC, was victorious in this matter, bringing 10 years’ worth of work to a conclusion,’ said Fatima Laher, the firm’s head of pro bono.

For the second time in a three-year cycle, a Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation Award was presented to Bowmans, which was one of five firms internationally to be recognised in this way. ‘This is an important award for Bowmans as it consolidates our pro bono work across our offices in Africa,’ Laher said. ‘The award further recognises the many hours of pro bono legal services rendered by so many of our lawyers across the continent, for which we are grateful.’

Click here to read the report.