Poppy Smith

I was incredibly lucky to be chosen to attend the IAWJ Biennial Conference for 2021. I am a first year law student at AUT and having the opportunity to be surrounded and educated by so many likeminded women was a privilege. 

Some of my favourite topics were the Covid-19, Judges in Afghanistan, Judicial Leadership and Gender Equality sessions. 

Judges in Afghanistan 

This was an eye opening session and it did make me feel privileged to be living in New Zealand as a woman. These inspiring and strong female judges face horrific scenarios every day yet they still wake up and fight for justice. No other country has gone through 20 years of continuous war. As Judge Anisa said, I too hope for the future to give safety and opportunity to all women judges in Afghanistan. 


This session was interesting as we have all experienced some form of challenge or hardship due to Covid-19. What an amazing session to hear from two of New Zealand’s finest! It was also really great to get some insight into what Helen and Siouxsie felt went wrong from the minute Covid-19 was communicated through to 8 days later when it was declared a health emergency or pandemic by WHO. They both felt that more could have been done earlier and most countries were not prepared, including New Zealand. Siouxsie believes that more countries need to take the elimination strategy and that it is inevitable that we will face future pandemics in our lifetime due to pushing the planet beyond how it can accomodate for us. Helen proceeded to discuss how New Zealand has a soft power and that we need to be a voice for the vaccine roll out in order to successfully combat this pandemic. 

Judicial Leadership 

I was so excited to watch this session with our very own Hon Dame Helen Winkelmann as well as other females from several varying jurisdictions including the USA and South Africa. I found out that legal representation in New Zealand is a challenge here in Aotearoa as there are unacceptable eligibility thresholds. Access to justice in the US also appeared to be an area of focus with many people appearing without counsel. One of the ways they have tried to remedy this is by going to people in the community and getting out to where the people are. An absolutely fascinating session. 

Gender Equality 

Being a female and attending a conference focussed on female judges, it was only right to watch the session on gender equality. How exciting to have such a reputable woman that is Baroness Helena Kennedy speak to us. As one of the UKs most distinguished lawyers, Helen took us on an incredible journey about gender equality and human rights overall. I loved her focus on fixing the system rather than fixing women. I also loved her quote about how there is a special place in hell for women who bring down other women. This was by far my favourite session of the whole conference and I look forward to following Helen in detail over the coming years. 

Overall, apart from a number of technical difficulties and not being able to be there in person to really take in all the information, I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and would love to attend again on the future. Who knows, perhaps I’ll have the chance to be a inspirational speaker for women in the future.