I know of a young lady who had dreams of being an attorney.
She worked hard and was accepted into Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University,
Which although far away from home,
She chose because of the ideals Nelson Mandela stood for,
Ideals against domination, whatever its kind.
She knows how it feels to not be accepted for who you are,
And what you bring to the table all too well.
She has to prove herself, even when she already has,
When a man in the same position wouldn’t have to.
It’s a man’s world, they said,
And the law is a male dominated fraternity.
I know of a young lady who worked tirelessly,
In and out of court, each and every day.
She worked passionately and met her monthly targets,
But this was never enough.
She would not be paid commission on the money she made,
Despite being entitled to it –
Yet another benefit stripped from her.
She didn’t deserve the respect afforded to the men in her profession,
And she could never be partner.
It is no secret that women lawyers are reduced to odd work within firms,
Despite holding law degrees.
They are told to ‘make tea or go home and play house;
Be a wife, a mother, a homemaker – that is what you are good for.’
Not good for high profile cases,
Not good for commission that is well deserved,
Certainly not good to be partner.
Equality is a necessity.
This young lady worked in an environment that didn’t nurture the dreamer.
Instead she was demotivated, crippled and inhibited by her counterparts,
Though she too held a law degree.
She went on to start her own law firm,
Not to seek recognition, but to be respected,
As a woman and a human.
In a male-dominated profession,
Women have had to overcome many obstacles to opportunities.
The resilience and tenacity women lawyers demonstrate
Are qualities highly valued in the field.
The law is founded on the principle of challenging injustice
And fighting violations of human rights,
Yet women in law continue to be undervalued
And disrespected in their endeavour to achieve equality.
The beauty of this young lady is that she was different.
She has experienced different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds,
In childhood and in adulthood.
She sees things from a different point of view;
A different perspective.
She promotes interactions founded on accepting different cultures,
And teaches that tolerance and diversity are strength.
It is beautiful to be different and to allow women in law to bloom.
We ought to stop trying to seek validation form our male counterparts.
We are capable. We are sufficient, we can do the work.
We need not be shrunk small, nor shrink ourselves smaller.
This young lady speaks up.
She makes men feel uncomfortable about women’s rights in the law –
In essence, human rights.
She will never be silent about things that matter.
She lives by the words of American journalist Nora Ephron:
“Above all be the heroine of your life, not the victim”.
I am pleased to celebrate women in law as a young female attorney,
In the year that South Africa has chosen its first female President
Of the Supreme Court of Appeal.
There is a lot of awareness to raise, a lot of work to do,
But women shall advance in the legal profession.
To each and every woman who was not afraid to step out,
To stand out when all odds were against you in the legal profession.
You inspire me.
Njiramanda Mbewe graduated with a Bachelor of Law from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (2011) in Port Elizabeth. She was admitted to practice in the High Courts of Botswana and has gone on to become a member of the Law Society of Botswana In good standing. Having grown up in a multi-cultural home drenched in diversity and with being an immigrant herself, being born in Zambia, studying in south Africa and now a Motswana Citizen, Njiramanda soon became passionate about human rights law with a specific interest in immigration law and the conservation of women’s rights in the workplace.
Njiramanda plans to pursue a Master’s Degree with special emphasis on Refugee and Immigrant Law whilst still upholding the integrity of intersecting feminist gender ideals in an effort to create an environment that accommodates women in the workplace. As the Founder of Mbewe Legal Practice, She, till this day, follows the beliefs of her hero, Nelson Mandela.