The Lawyers Circle, a collective within The Circle, brings together with experience in the legal sector, from all walks of life, who have a shared passion and commitment to address the issues faced by disempowered women and girls across the globe.
Melanie Hall QC, a founding member of The Circle and lawyer Miriam Gonzalez founded The Lawyers Circle in 2011. Members of The Lawyers Circle continue to use their skills to empower women and girls to realise their rights by working on the legal aspects of women’s disempowerment in the Global South.
What began as an association of 20 lawyers eight years ago has now grown to a network of dedicated professionals working in the legal sector, ranging from junior lawyers to QCs, to partners of city law firms, all working together to leverage their expertise and networks in support of women and girls.
What We Have Achieved
The Lawyers Circle, in partnership with TrustLaw and the Clean Clothes Campaign, launched a report at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit on Thursday May 11th 2017. The report sets out the legal argument that a living wage is a fundamental human right, and that companies and governments have a responsibility to uphold this right. It has been developed with the assistance of lawyers based in fourteen countries where large-scale retailers source garment production, including India, Bangladesh, Turkey and Mexico. It examines the relevant labour laws and regulations in these countries, as well as their implementation and control mechanisms. The report on the living wage in the garment industry is a true collaboration of key stakeholders a was launched at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2017. In July 2018 a private celebration was held in recognition of the hard work that over 50 people from 14 countries put into this powerful report. Bringing together lawyers, The Circle members, volunteers and The Circle founder Annie Lennox and founding member Livia Firth, the event acknowledged achievements and set the tone for the work that still must be done for the empowerment of the most vulnerable women working in the garment industry. The report caught the attention of major publications such Vogue.
Since then, members or The Lawyers Circle have continued to contribute to The Circle’s work progressing a new legal framework for a living wage to ultimately ensure that workers in the garment industry – who are predominantly women – receive a living wage. This work has culminated in a second report to make a proposal for a new legislation framework to stop the “race to the bottom” and ensure a living wage. You can read Fashion Focus: Towards a Legal Framework for a Living Wage here.
In parallel to this project The Lawyers Circle have made a UN Every Woman Every Child commitment to provide a gap analysis report proposing a legal framework surrounding women’s access to justice and legal accountability for maternal health in Tanzania. Working with various partners internationally and locally in Tanzania, following the White Ribbon Alliance and the Tanzanian Women Lawyers’ Association’s draft bill presented to the Tanzanian Parliament in 2012, members want decision makers to be accountable for the 24 women dying needlessly in childbirth every day in Tanzania. At a member’s event in April 2018, committee member of The Lawyers Circle committee member, human rights and anti-corruption lawyer Karis McLarty, talked about the project, the objectivity of the report and shared the challenges that they have faced along the way.
“We believe that for a right to be effective it must be actionable. Our proposal is to change the law to empower women to be able to assert their rights” — Karis McLarty.
The Lawyer’s Circle has an impressive portfolio of projects including working with Oxfam on their Raising Her Voice project, where they analysed the implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women (or Maputo Protocol) in Kenya. The report was launched at a cocktail reception hosted by Dechert LLP.
Members have worked with Equality Now to undertake a legal survey concerning gender-based violence in Kenya. Their support was given a group of Kenyan lawyers who developed a test case to establish a broad ambit for positive obligations to protect women from gender-based violence.
The Lawyers Circle’s biggest fundraising event was held at the Royal Geographical Society. Members also support Chai Day and hosted their first event in 2016 to raise awareness about violence against women and girls.
The Lawyers Circle is continuing their work to guarantee a living wage for garment workers and ensure that women’s maternal health rights are protected in Tanzania. They are also exploring opportunities to support more of the most vulnerable women and girls through pro-bono work.