Attending the International Association of Women Judges Biennial Conference in Auckland was an inspiring and informative experience. I am incredibly thankful to the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation for allowing me to attend this conference. All panellists provided enlightening insights into the experience of women on judiciaries around the world, and it was an honour to find myself in the company of such distinguished women. In this report, I will briefly describe some of my reflections on the experience.
I particularly enjoyed the 'Inspirational Young New Zealanders' session. All panellists spoke so eloquently and indeed serve as inspiring role models for students such as myself. Pita Roycroft's speech was particularly memorable for me, as it featured a raw discussion about identity and his personal experiences both at law school and in the legal profession. His statement that 'you succeed because of who you are, not in spite of it' deeply resonated with me; often at law school, I have found it difficult to reconcile my own identity with my preconceived and internalised notions of how a law student and future lawyer ought to look like. Pita's speech reminded me that diversity of all kinds can and should be accepted, and there certainly is room for this in the legal profession.
Another memorable session was the 'Afghanistan' session, where we heard from the Honourable Anisa Rasooli and Nafisa Kabuli. The experiences shared by these judges reminded me of how fortunate I am to live in a stable society where female members of the judiciary can safely conduct their work. Rasooli said that the continuous state of war has meant that they are constantly living in fear, and some of her colleagues have been killed in the conflict. She also stated that the terrorists present in her country fervently dislike the idea of women working as judges and seek to enforce religious fundamentalism. I found this session to serve as a sobering reminder of the injustices that are faced by millions of women worldwide; while women in New Zealand are fortunate enough to enjoy a strong degree of gender equality, in many countries women will many scorned for expressing any desire to apply themselves outside of the domestic sphere. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to pursue my legal education unimpeded by patriarchal forces of oppression and am surrounded by a community of strong-minded, independent women.
At the conference, I also had the opportunity to talk to many young female lawyers and gain insight into their experience in the profession. Since coming back to university in Wellington following the conference, I have felt re-energised and inspired to continue my hard work. Being surrounded by senior members of the judiciary reminded me that law school is the first step for everyone - from those who are freshly graduated to the justices sitting on our Supreme Court. This reminded me that the limitations on what I can achieve during and after university can only be defined by my personal determination.