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NBAWF pledges to support female lawyers advance in leadership

By Silver Nwokoro
24 January 2023   |   4:05 am
The Nigerian Bar Association Women Forum (NBAWF) has pledged to ensure female lawyers gain positions of leadership both in NBA and in the society at large.

Former chairperson NBA Women Forum, Prof Oluyemisi Bamgbose SAN (Left); Founder/Executive Director Institute for African Women in Law, Prof J. Jarpa Dawuni; guest speaker, Justice Amina Augie JSC, CON; former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Edo state, Prof Yinka Omorogbe; board member IAWL, Dr Onyoja Momoh and chairperson NBA Women Forum, Chinyere Okorocha, at the report launched by the IAWL in partnership with the NBA Women Forum. PHOTO: SILVER NWOKORO

Launches three reports on women in leadership, law

The Nigerian Bar Association Women Forum (NBAWF) has pledged to ensure female lawyers gain positions of leadership both in NBA and in the society at large.

The new President of the forum, Chinyere Okorocha, who made the pledge at the inauguration of its new executive committee, said it is part of the five point agenda her administration is set to achieve during the service year.

According to her, research shows that female professionals stay systematically biased, which constitute part of the challenges that prevent them from attaining the heights that they want to even in the legal profession.

“We need to empower our women so that they can take up that mantle of leadership,” she said. Okorocha added that the body would be collaborating with other institutions and female bodies such as, the international women in law section of the New York State bar, the Business Nigerian law forum, British Nigerian law forum, women’s section and the Institute of African women in law to have a shared vision, and to empower female lawyers for success.

She noted that some of the peculiar issues women face are trying to attain work balance, sexual harassment and health issues among others. Her words: “A lot of people say that there are not many women attaining the status of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) because women find it difficult going to court and why do women find it difficult going to court because they have multiple roles that they play.

“In between their career, by the time they go for three months maternity leave, in many organisations, they have moved ahead. So, attaining that work balance is a huge challenge for female professionals, which is why we are able to offer real training.

“There are some things you can use to overcome those challenges. They include receiving help, recognising that you can’t do it on your own, using the power of delegation, prioritising properly during training to help you network and look for people who can lift you up, who can offer solutions when you need them.

“Sexual harassment is a huge issue even in the legal profession, and those are some of the issues. Using the sexual harassment policy that was launched by the NBA last year, we are going to ensure that adequate steps are taken to implement the provisions of that document across the nation, so that women or female professionals will be protected and safe even in the workplace.

“We are also going to key into the NBA Health Insurance Scheme to ensure that women are not neglected when they are cautioning or drawing up the list of those who benefit from the scheme.”

The five points agenda, Okorocha said are: Strengthening the forum, building capacity for female lawyers in Nigeria, achieving nationwide coverage and recognition for the forum, promoting female lawyers in leadership, and promoting work-life balance for women in the legal industry in Nigeria.

President of NBA, Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), in his opening remark lauded the NBAWF, especially the outgone executives for laying a strong foundation for the new ones.

He noted that the NBAWF has been of great support in attaining the general objectives of the NBA and pledged his continuous support for the forum.

“The NBAWF is a pride to all and we will not relent in our effort to support the women forum whenever our support is needed, because this will also be in line with the objectives of the NBA,” he said.

In advising the past and present executives of NBAWF, Maikyau stated that it was not enough to simply pass the baton of leadership, but that the past executives must continually support the present administration.

The immediate past chairperson of NBAWF, Prof Oluyemisi Bamgbose (SAN), in her handover report, congratulated the new executives on starting their tenure on a solid foundation and reaffirmed her support for the new leadership.

Lauding Okorocha’s dedication and commitment to the objectives of the body, Bamgbose expressed confidence in the new chairperson who was the vice-chairperson during her tenure.

She noted some of the landmark achievements of the forum during her tenure, which were the creation of nine committees in 2020, the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Women in Law Section of the New York State Bar in 2020 and the signing of a research collaboration agreement with the Institute of African Women in Law in 2021.

Others were initiating a Sexual Harassment Policy, which was adopted by the NBA in October 2022, organising of trainings and workshops on issues affecting female lawyers in Nigeria and commemoration of the International Women’s Day yearly.

The new executive committee members are, Okorocha (chairperson); Vice-Chairperson, Ifueko Alufohai; Secretary, Irene Iniobong Pepple; Treasurer, Mercy Ijato-Agada and publicity secretary, Theodora Kio-Lawson.

The event also ushered in the new governing council of the forum comprising Folashade Alli, Soibi Ovia, Ekaete Ubokudom, Chinyere Okeziem-Nwoko, Musleemah Nagode Olamide, Oyeyemi Aderigbigbe and Mohammed Adama.

In a related development, the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) in collaboration with the NBAWF has launched a three report on women in leadership and law.

The research gives empirical data on women in law and leadership in three sectors of the legal profession – the bar, bench and academia. The research was carried out on behalf of the IAWL by the Research and Documentation committee of the NBAWF headed by Prof Adejoke Oyewunmi.

In her opening remarks, Okorocha congratulated both bodies on the momentous report launch. She noted that the NBAWF was first contacted in 2021 by Founder and Executive Director, IAWL, Prof J. Jarpa Dawuni to carry out the research on behalf of the institute and this report marked the first properly compiled data on women in law and leadership in Nigeria.

She also noted that women for centuries were not treated, as they should in the various professions they found themselves including the legal profession.

According to her, the research is important and will help to find out through empirical evidence whether what women suffer is perhaps marginalisation, discrimination, unequal pay or just women making a lot of noise.

In his goodwill message, Maikyau, who was represented by NBA secretary, Adesina Adegbite, lauded the initiative of the IAWL and NBAWF on the research and noted that it was a good thing that women took charge of their destiny.

He also noted that the NBAWF would constantly enjoy the support of the administration. Dawuni stated that the research was conducted in four African countries, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Senegal. It has been concluded and launched first in Nigeria, other countries will come later.

According to her, the study shows that there are notable female thought leaders in Nigeria, and a lot still needs to be done to increase the number of those among them in legal professional for leadership.

“The research was done to obtain data on women lawyers in leadership, highlight the successes of female lawyers in Nigeria, pointing out the challenges and proffer solutions to these challenges,” Dawuni said.

In a chat between Justice Amina Augie, JSC and Dawuni, Justice Augie talked about her 45-year career and highlighted her experience as a woman in academia and on the bench.

She noted that to rise and be part of leadership, women face a lot of challenges. However, she said women have to embrace obstacles, learn lessons from them and be prepared for anything.

She also noted that women have to prepare themselves for leadership, “wanting to be a leader is one thing and preparing for when it will come is another; women have to own it and embrace crisis and be confident always.”

The reports of the research were unveiled by Dawuni, Okorocha, Justice Augie JSC, Bamgbose (SAN), Gbenga Oyebode, Yinka Omorogbe (SAN) and Dr. Onyoja Momoh.

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