On Friday, 23 June 2023, the Faculty of Law at the University of Johannesburg, and project partners, namely the South African Chapter of the International Association of Women Judges (SAC-IAWJ), Women in Law in South Africa (WOZA) and Mapongwana Attorneys Inc., launched a Co-Impact Gender Fund project. The project aims to implement institutional change in the legal profession in South Africa focused on the sustainable advancement of female leadership. The project will work towards a legal institution that is responsive to the lived experiences of black females; promotes their agency, voice, and power; and reimages the components of the legal profession that currently are barriers to entry, leadership, and success. The target population will be black female law students and female early-career academics. The project will include interventions such as a mentorship programme, workshops, and the development of a metaverse.
The Co-Impact Gender fund grants philanthropists and foundations which focus on a broad ecosystem of actors working to advance gender equality and women’s leadership while seeking to shift harmful gender norms that limit progress. The fund supports and partners with organisations and institutions to strengthen the development of women’s leadership across all levels, addressing the multiple systems embedded in them and disseminating evidence on how to support gender equality.
In her opening speech, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor Wesahl Domingo, mentioned that “This is a first project of its kind both at the University and from the Co-Impact Fund as it usually donates to philanthropic NGOs. While the project is launched at the University of Johannesburg, the bigger picture is to impact the lives of marginalised future legal leaders in South Africa”.
The Registrar, Professor Bettine Jansen van Vuuren, added, “It is gratifying that the faculty is also focusing on societal impact projects, particularly sustainable development and innovations, as it aligns with the university’s goals on the UN 17 SDGs. This is exciting since the university took first place in the SDG 1 (No Poverty) in the latest 2023 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings (https://www.uj.ac.za/news/uj-tops-global-the-impact-rankings-takes-first-spot-for-sdg-1-no-poverty/)”. This project is consistent with the university’s aim to merge institutional strategic goals such as SDGs and 4IR, in its projects. Dr Pieter Myburgh was acknowledged for infusing science in this social and legal impact project.
The Director of Fundraising and Administration, Internationalisation at the University of Johannesburg, Ms Ntombise Mangqase, has been instrumental in developing the fund proposal and ensuring that we succeed, said Dr Charissa Fawole, the Project Coordinator. Dr C Fawole has been coordinating the project since 2021 under the leadership of Prof W Domingo. In her remarks, she reflected that the long journey to get to this point was motivated by the goal of equipping and empowering black females to take up positions of leadership and thrive in the legal profession. She stated, “The initial concept note and application was born out of a WHY, our partners have come alongside us because of WHY, and I am confident that we will work to the next part of this process fuelled by the WHY”.
Ms Laura Dlepu from the Women in Law in South Africa (WOZA) shared the excitement of the project, mainly aimed at closing the gap between graduates and the professional development of women in the legal fraternity. Dr Franaaz Khan, a project partner, underscored the link between education and female empowerment by sharing that “In a continent rich in diversity, culture, and resilience, it is imperative that we recognise the immense potential that lies within the hearts and minds of African girls. By empowering them through education, we can unlock a future of limitless possibilities, not only for these girls but for entire nations”.
The project is in the design phase, and exciting news and collaborations will follow soon. Please follow our story via the faculty of law social media pages for more exciting developments as we sustainably advance, close the gap, and develop a new generation of women leaders in law in South Africa.