In honour of International Women’s Day, the Bar Human Rights Committee and Garden Court Chambers co-hosted a panel discussion showcasing the work of human rights advocates and defenders fighting for women’s rights & women human rights defenders around the globe.
Rothna Begum, senior researcher of the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, who discussed the silencing of women’s rights defenders in Saudia Arabia in the fight to lift the driving ban;
Jane Gordon, co-founder of Sisters for Change, who discussed the incredible work Sisters for Change is doing to combat violence against women and girls, including their recent project in India supporting Dalit women to use domestic law to challenge discrimination and violence against women and girls;
Hibo Wardere, author, campaigner and educator on FGM, giving a powerful speech on the importance of using her voice to speak out against the cruelties of FGM taking place in Saudi Arabia;
and Gráinne Mellon, barrister at Garden Court Chambers and Secretary of BHRC’s Executive Committee, who discussed the work BHRC has done for women’s rights defenders and its close relationship with organisations like Peace Brigades International UK, who provide support to women human rights defenders in Latin America.
The panel was chaired by BHRC Chair Schona Jolly QC, in her first event as Chair of BHRC, who paid tribute to all of the women’s rights activists around the world and looked to the panellists’ presentations as encouraging signs that women’s voices are sending a powerful message across the world.
The event took place on Wednesday 6 March at Garden Court Chambers (57-60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LJ) and included a drinks reception following the panel discussion, sponsored by Garden Court Chambers.
Rothna Begum is a senior women’s rights researcher focused on the Middle East and North Africa region at Human Rights Watch. She has worked on human rights issues for more than a decade. She began working for Human Rights Watch in 2013, where she has since led research on violence and discrimination against women in the MENA region. This has included documenting and campaigned against the abuse and exploitation of migrant domestic workers in the Gulf, sexual violence and slavery of Yezidi women by ISIS in Iraq, the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, and the lack of adequate response to domestic violence in Morocco, Lebanon, and Iraq. Rothna previously worked for Amnesty International for five and a half years’ researching human rights violations in the Gulf region. Rothna holds a LLB in Law and a LLM in Legal Theory from the London School Economics and Political Science.
Jane Gordon MA (Oxon) LLM (Distinction) is a human rights lawyer with over 20 years’ experience working in human rights legal practice and policy at the domestic, regional and international levels. Jane was Human Rights Advisor to the Northern Ireland Policing Board (2003-2008) where she co-devised the first ever framework for monitoring the human rights compliance of the police. Jane has litigated cases of serious human rights violations against Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Ukraine before the European Court of Human Rights and advised national human rights institutions, public authorities and oversight mechanisms in Jamaica, India, Malawi, Iraq, Ireland and across the UK. Between 2008-2017, Jane was a Senior Fellow at LSE’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights and LSE’s Centre for Women, Peace and Security where she delivered LSE’s practitioner short course on Women’s Human Rights. In 2013/2014, Jane served as gender advisor/SGBV investigator with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria. In 2014, Jane co-founded Sisters For Change with her sister, SFC Executive Director, Alison Gordon. Sisters For Change is an international NGO working to eliminate discrimination and violence against women and girls worldwide through legal reform, legal empowerment and legal advocacy. SFC is active in India, Indonesia, the UK and across the Commonwealth.
Hibo Wardere is an anti-FGM campaigner, educator, guest speaker and author of Cut: One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today. She serves as an ambassador for SafeHands for Mothers, a charity that raises awareness of issues such as FGM, child marriage and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Hibo uses her own trauma as an educational tool. Her testimonials and campaigning work have appeared in publications, including the Telegraph, the BBC, and The Guardian.
Gráinne Mellon is a public law specialist barrister with particular expertise in human rights and equality law. Her practice includes immigration, unlawful detention and trafficking, community care and Court of Protection, children’s rights and discrimination law. She also has experience in public and private international children law. Grainne regularly acts for vulnerable children and adults, as well as for charities and other organisations. In addition to her domestic practice, Gráinne acts and advises in international and European human rights law and in international criminal law. She lectures in International Human Rights Law at the London School of Economics and is also a Fellow in the Centre for Human Rights at the LSE. She sits on the Executive Committee of the Bar Human Rights Committee.
Schona Jolly QC is Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the Head of Cloisters Chambers’ Human Rights Group, where she practices as a barrister. She took silk in 2017 and is renowned for her cutting edge work on discrimination, including gender discrimination and harassment, and the intersection of discrimination with her other principal areas of specialisation including equality, human rights/civil liberties, employment, public, sports and international law. She represents a number of high profile clients and her most recent cases include representation, advice or interventions in respect of FGM, genocide, harassment, trafficking, whistleblowing, gender quotas and gig economy cases both in the domestic and international arenas. She also writes regularly for a variety of newspapers, including the Guardian and Prospect and is a published author.