My name is Zainab and I was fortunate enough to attend The International Association of Women Judges Biennial Conference as a result of the scholarship provided by the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation.
A session that I particularly enjoyed was the “Women and the World” session – and in particular the conversation between Prince Zeid Raad Al Hussein, the former UN Commission of Human Rights, and Marietta Robinson. Mr Al Hussein was both eloquent and humorous in recounting his experiences of addressing human rights abuses during his time at the UN and given my personal area of interest is human rights and humanitarian law, listening to him speak was very insightful and beneficial for me as a law student. An important point that Mr Al Hussein brought up was that in relation to contentious human rights issues, there should be a space for open discussion and exchange of ideas in order to push normative boundaries and progress as society. I wholeheartedly agreed and was inspired by his statement that human rights law tends to be seen as a technical discipline full of legal jargon that is difficult for the layperson to understand, and that in order for there to be progression in this field of law, the public should be able to comprehend its purpose and operation better. This is something that I hope to be able to apply and implement in my career as a lawyer in the future.
I was also very intrigued by the session on “Alternative Courts” as I had previously studied the Youth Courts and Pasifika Courts in Auckland, so it was interesting to see the alternative court structures that have been established in other jurisdictions. Syed Mansoor Ali Shah from Pakistan spoke on the development of women’s rights in the judiciary which he posited to be the strongest organ in influencing and breaking gender stereotypes in Pakistan – I found this to be quite interesting as I have read much about the struggle of minorities as victims of crime in Pakistan, so being able to ask Mr Shah a question about this issue provided me with an interesting perspective directly from a member of the judiciary which I could further look into. Something that stuck with me from the “Indigenous Women” session was when Hon. Sharon Otene talked about the “responsibility to your past and your future”, in terms of addressing indigenous rights, specifically in Aotearoa. As someone who lives in New Zealand and is studying international law, particularly the recognition of indigenous rights by settler-colonial states, this was a very weighty and pertinent statement that I will no doubt carry with me throughout my career as a lawyer.
I am incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend this conference, as not only was I able to learn more about the challenges and experiences faced by women judges across the world, but also, it was a wonderful chance to connect personally with women in the legal profession, as well as other scholarship students.