BLA SC Women Empowerment Summit

September 26th, 2016
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President of Black Lawyers Association Student Chapter, Edmund Ramaholi, welcomed guests to the Women Empowerment Summit that was held on 3 September in Johannesburg.

President of Black Lawyers Association Student Chapter, Edmund Ramaholi, welcomed guests to the Women Empowerment Summit that was held on 3 September in Johannesburg.

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

President of Black Lawyers Association Student Chapter (BLA SC), Edmund Ramaholi, said the student chapter is looking up to the mother body (Black Lawyers Association (BLA)) to start adva

ncing transformation they purport to stand for, and understand the struggle of women. Mr Ramaholi was welcoming guests at the Women’s Empowerment Summit that was held on 3 September at the Professional Provident Fund headquarters in Parktown, when he said the structure of their organisations, starting with the BLA, have more men in leadership than women. He added that it was a general problem, even in society, where women have been overlooked by men, because society is patriarchal.

Mr Ramaholi further said, there were still reservations in the profession to explicitly trust women into positions of power. He said there were always questions regarding women’s ability to do work and women were never included in importa

nt discussions, but instead given minor positions in the organisation. He pointed out, that he and other men who attended the summit wanted to engage with women to understand their struggle and stand side-by-side in the transformation process. ‘Women are the best people to tell us or to narrate their stories to us, as men it is about time we listen without prejudices, [and] understand the position women find themselves in,’ he said.

Candidate attorney and former BLA SC president, Nape Masipa, agreed with his successor and said it was about time BLA SC had a female president, as women can equally be good leaders, and lead with distinction.

Mr Masipa criticised South African men for being agents of patriarchy and for normalising gender violence and said that men in society, as well as in the corporate world have normalised gender violence. He said he was saddened by the reason that, when he goes to the criminal courts, in eight out of ten cases, the deceased are women.

He went on further to state: ‘As men when we dream, we dream of having big law firms, and when we get them, we take women and make them the faces of our companies to secure government tenders and then we call it women empowerment.’

Advocate Brenda Madumise-Pajibo, told female candidate attorneys that black people must stand up for one another. She said she was pleased that the summit was taking place not so long after Women’s month. ‘The month where by the country interrogates, acknowledges and celebrates the role women played and continue to play,’ she said.

Guest speaker, Advocate Brenda Madumise-Pajibo, at the Black Lawyers Association Student Chapter’s Women Empowerment Summit held on 3 September in Johannesburg.

Guest speaker, Advocate Brenda Madumise-Pajibo, at the Black Lawyers Association Student Chapter’s Women Empowerment Summit held on 3 September in Johannesburg.

Ms Madumise-Pajibo said because a person is a woman or a poor woman, that does not make her a second class citizen in South Africa (SA). She said it all started with the women of 1956 who marched to the Union Buildings. ‘Women fought for equality and not to be treated like second class citizens, and men cannot tell women how to feel, but rather walk side-by-side with women and listen to what women have to say,’ she said.

Ms Madumise-Pajibo shared her experience as a black woman in the legal profession. She said it was difficult when she was studying law at Wits University. She said black law students where not allowed to reside on campus, but instead they were built a residential home outside campus in Soweto. She added that they were also not allowed to use the university’s library to study for exams. She said black students had to fight for things to change and to be allowed to have access to the things they wanted, adding that the battle is now for the current generation.

Ms Madumise-Pajibo advised BLA SC, that if they want to thrive in their battles, they needed to be authentic, honest, truthful and not be hypocritical and pretentious. She said the BLA must be an organisation for all lawyers. It should be kept in mind that ‘not all of us in the profession are attorneys [and] advocates,’ she said.

Ms Madumise-Pajibo said BLA was led as an African National Congress type organisation, where they are preoccupied with elective conferences and choosing leaders. She said the organisation must take a good look at the current situation in SA and warned that if they continued running it like they do, the organisation will be in trouble. She said as a result women who are in the organisation will end up leaving out, because they cannot fight the way men do. She noted that she still believed in the organisation and that it can add value to the lives of people who want to be in the legal profession, but only if the organisation changes its direction. ‘Let us stop being hypocritical and pretentious, you might not challenge the organisation because you might not get a position, but rather not get it and be truthful to yourself,’ she said.

Ms Madumise-Pajibo said when the organisation speaks about empowering women, they must apply action to words and not just talk. She said the BLA must fight for black lawyers to get briefs and open practices, and that legal practitioners must question how things are done in the private sector, like they do in the public sector. ‘We all go to the government and want the government to give us work as lawyers, and it is dog eat dog world in government at the moment but in the private sector no one bothers to [ask why only] white law firms [receive work],’ she said.

Ms Madumise-Pajibo said if black lawyers want to deal with inequality and poverty it has to start among themselves.

Ms Madumise-Pajibo thanked the men who attended the summit. She said it was important that they attended, because issues and challenges women face need to be discussed with men present. She said the older generation in the legal profession are pinning their hopes on the current generation to continue fighting for what is right and said her generation is still trying to pave the way for the younger law generation in the private sector, to make it is easier for them to acquire jobs.

Law graduate from the University of South Africa, Katlego Shole, did not agree with the statement made by Ms Madumise-Pajibo, that her generation of lawyers, did enough to help Mr Shole’s generation. She said the older generation rather ‘chickened’ out and failed them. He said they should have been ‘brutal’ when handling matters in the legal profession.

Mr Shole said the generation of Ms Madumise-Pajibo, must use the structures that South African Broadcast Commission, Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng uses. ‘Go to the government and demanded that 90% of their work be given strictly to black lawyers and go to corporate companies and demand that at least 60% of work be given to black lawyers,’ he said.

Attorney at Cliffe Dekker Hofmyer and member of the Black Lawyers Association National Executive Committee, Mongezi Mphahlwa, speaking at the Women’s Empowerment Summit on 3 September.

Attorney at Cliffe Dekker Hofmyer and member of the Black Lawyers Association National Executive Committee, Mongezi Mphahlwa, speaking at the Women’s Empowerment Summit on 3 September.

Mr Shole said it was the only way there can be prominent black law firms. He said the older generation lacked strategies. ‘Black lawyers know the law and the loop holes but they are not doing anything, organisations such as BLA and Advocates for Change are not doing much to empower black lawyers,’ he said.

Mr Shole said it is hard to be a graduate in the legal profession and that it is equally hard to find articles.

In response Ms Madumise-Pajibo said she believes they did the best they could and told guests at the summit, that she and other advocates, namely, advocate Thuli Madonsela wanted to formulate a charter that states that 60% of work be given to black female lawyers. She said even after their efforts of consulting with law societies and producing a report they did not achieve what they wanted to, however, she believes that the new Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 will take the profession to a new light.

Ms Madumise-Pajibo also said black lawyers need to unite and ask why they are not given jobs in corporates, she gave an example that most black lawyers own shares in private companies such as MTN and Sasol but they never ask why those companies do not hire more black lawyers. She said they must use the power that they have to change the situation. She said all that needs to happen, is for the legal profession to give opportunities to young lawyers.

Attorney at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and member of the BLA National Executive Committee, Mongezi Mpahlwa, said women must lead in empowering themselves. He said that it cannot be left to men to empower women. He said women understand more about the struggle they go through and can help men better understand what needs to be done, for women to be empowered. ‘What are women doing to empower themselves?’ he asked. ‘It cannot be said that women are incapable to rise up and take their rightful place beside their male counterparts,’ he said.

Mr Mpahlwa said women sometimes do not rise up to the opportunity, and that when they need women to volunteer themselves and take opportunities, they are nowhere to be found. He asked why women rather choose to be supportive of a male counterpart rather than women themselves being leaders?

Gauteng Local Division and Tax Court Judge, Margie Victor, speaking at the Women’s Empowerment Summit held in Johannesburg.

Gauteng Local Division and Tax Court Judge, Margie Victor, speaking at the Women’s Empowerment Summit held in Johannesburg.

Gauteng Local Division and Tax Court in Johannesburg, Judge Margie Victor, was also a guest speaker at the summit. She said women of all generations must unite to make gender equality become a reality by the year 2030. She said there is an important role for women in the legal profession, especially those who are on the Bench to accelerate the gender equality goal by mentoring in the field of law.

Judge Victor said mentoring is timeless and that mothers are the most important mentors. But said there has to be mentoring in the professional work field. She said mentoring can help students in aspects such as –

  • achieving excellence in the current work place;
  • strengthening skills;
  • giving them an opportunity to prepare for higher office; and
  • assisting with opportunities to be assessed as suitable candidates for higher office.

Judge Victor also said networking is important in the legal profession. She said candidate attorneys can be exposed to other practitioners in the legal profession and that it might help when they want to do articles or look for a job.

Judge Victor called for mentoring to be systemic and that both mentor and mentee must be fully involved in the programme. She said both in law and politics, women in higher positions must be able to provide internships, and pass on skills to the younger women and that senior attorneys must be incorporated into the mentoring system, so that they could facilitate it.

 

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

 This article was first published in De Rebus in 2016 (Oct) DR 8.

 

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