Today one of the most ardent followers of my blog takes the floor to speak on the topic of sexism in the legal profession especially in the field of social work . So it’s Dorcas on the beat! Kindly encourage her with your comments and reactions!
“Women generally face lack of equal opportunity not even in the aspect of education but for the fact that a woman is not “deemed serious” even when what she has to bring to the table can cause a much desired change and result. There is a definition that comes with the image of the woman and it means weak, incapable and sometimes unworthy’ the woman symbol has been so derogated to sleep side by side with disdain, contempt, disregard, worthless, and derisive statements”. Wari Wuniya Welye
Female lawyers in the social field are open to this alarming disparagement, which has stood overtime as a clog to their advancement and achievements thus undermining the full utilization of their potentials. I recently had an in-depth discussion with two delectable female lawyers in the social field from different locations on different occasions who shared similar challenges and hitches that confronts them in the field. Nkiruka and Nari Wuniya Welye (a 2016 Mandela Washington fellow), both have been in active social work for at least and past 8 years in their different endeavours.
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Nari quoted in the earlier part of the article went further to share her experience as a serving Corps member in Zamfara state and the leader of the legal aid CDS group. She said even as the leader, she was not permitted to teach men as that will tantamount to having authority over men. Even in places where they succeeded, their male counterparts have to go in first and the women get dressed up from head to toe to be given audience.
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Nkiru in giving her side of the story went in line with Nari’s and experience in IDP camps and communities she had visited. She said social cultural barriers were issues in some communities which affected female lawyers in social work. She said they were not allowed to interview these men, only male counterparts were allowed because “in such communities, women were subjugated to the men and forbidden to speak much less to be spoken to by such inferiority”.
She further added “that there were environment and communities that aren’t gender friendly areas because they are harsh which makes it impossible for women to adapt as much as their male counterparts except of course women with exceptional male strength”
Nkiru summed up her challenges in three words, sexual harassment, gender inequality and disenfranchisement. Male counterparts tend to harass the female lawyers for the fact that they are women; same for the men to whom you are proffering solutions to and on the female refusing, they could face violent reactions.
Sexism within its literal meaning means an unfair treatment or discrimination based on a difference of sex or gender; it also means unequal opportunity arising from the cultural dominance of one gender over the other.
Having looked at these definitions, I am forced to look deeply as to what the saying “no such thing as a woman in the legal profession” really connotes. “No women in the profession”, in what context really? No women as per gender or on the basis of their biological sexuality?
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If such quote speaks of both men and women without segregation or contempt to their sex, why then do we see and hear of female lawyers being discriminated and treated with disdain, insulted and disrespected by both their male counterparts and society at large. This disparagement calls for quick action and mitigation of such misconduct and illegality.
Continuing on their experience in field work, Nari was emphatic that in respect to gender inequality, the male counterparts are heard more than the females in a room where two people have issues or in a community where they are been addressed, few exceptional cases were the female are heard are only by the educated who are intrigued by the female speaking.
Male lawyers get more responses and attention. One hears derogatory and opprobrious comment comment such as “Na woman sef” though she pointed out that in terms of getting information out, the women are more at an advantage. Women still experience blatant sexism from both male counterparts and the men in the society.
Nari also said that “our societies have thought us to be perfect but not brave”. The idea is that we are seen and taught on cooking, cleaning and serving by which we are judged but I dare to say that the society has forgotten to teach us, which is the true test of our quite intimidating natural potentials.
She further added that “we should be raised on the platform where we are allowed to release our potentials in art, science, advocacy and social work.”
She pointed out that “it is not all about giving the women liberation but it is about giving 50% population a chance, if a woman can singlehandedly and successfully manage a man, home and work, she can do much than we can describe in a word”
Irrespective of what or who you are, the constitution recognizes that every individual is entitled to a right of freedom from discrimination on the basis of their sex and as such, this misconduct should be mitigated and possibly eradicated in the legal profession. Such disdain given to women regardless of their professionalism is still subsisting and must be curbed.
Finally, female lawyers have an equal right in the social field to advocate for the rights of citizens as Ministers in the temple of justice called to the service of humanity as such they don’t deserve to be discriminated or harassed on the basis of their gender.
Author’s Profile: Dorcas Osazee Ogiamien is a legal practitioner, dispute resolution specialist, human rights enthusiast, writer, advocate and the Executive Director of Fresh Life Care Foundation. she can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org