The Lawyers Circle, a collective within The Circle, brings together women with experience of the legal profession, 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 poverty and disempowerment in lower and middle-income countries.
What began as an association of 20 lawyers eight years ago has now grown to a network of dedicated legal 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 The Circle’s project
What We Have Achieved
Most recently The Lawyers Circle has been the leading The Circle’s work in pushing for a living wage to be recognised as a human right in the fast fashion industry. The argument was debated at the European Parliament in February 2018 that was made possible thanks to the foundational work done in producing The Living Wage report. 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 regognition 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.
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.