WHO WE ARE
The Women’s Legal Centre
Our dedicated team of attorneys, candidate attorneys, paralegals and legal advisors specialise in feminist litigation. We are based in Cape Town but work nationally, with a weekly Help Desk at the Cape Town Family Court and in Khayelitsha.
The Women’s Legal Centre is an African feminist legal centre that advances womxn’s rights and equality using tools such as litigation, advocacy, education, advice, research and training
- We develop law, policy, and feminist jurisprudence based on an intersectional approach with substantive equality as its foundation.
- We drive a feminist agenda which acknowledges the impact that discrimination has on womxn within their differences in class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.
- We provide tools for womxn to empower themselves across sectors to demand access to their rights.
- We support the development of a cadre of black feminist lawyers within the legal profession
The Centre has a vision of womxn in South Africa being free from violence, empowered to ensure their own reproductive and health rights, free to own their own share of property, having a safe place to stay and empowered to work in a safe and equitable environment.
How We Work
Providing education and training to womxn on their basic labour rights and working conditions.
We offer free legal advice
We offer in-person and telephonic legal advice to womxn and identify systemic challenges that womxn face in accessing their rights.
We coordinate free legal advice clinics in Khayelitsha and at the Cape Town Family Court, not only to assist womxn with legal advice but also as a means to identify widespread problems womxn face that we can take up in litigation or advocacy. Through direct legal services, we are able to identify gaps in laws, systemic failures and challenges with implementation which informs our strategic litigation. The bulk of the queries we receive involve the dissolution of relationships either through death, divorce or separation, violence against womxn, and maintenance.
The WLC has won several precedent-setting cases that have improved womxn’s access to justice in South Africa.
Using strategic litigation (litigation that goes beyond a single case to advance a broader agenda) has proven to be a key strategy in developing feminist jurisprudence through precedent-setting cases. We litigate in our own name, in the public interest (such as on behalf of civil society organisations), on behalf of clients, or as a friend of the court (amicus curiae). Strategic litigation is often the best tool to advance a specific right or to challenge a discriminatory law or policy.
The WLC is committed to training the next generation of black womxn lawyers.
In the spirit of transformation and the development of skills for womxn who are interested in working in the feminist legal space we have a strong candidate attorney programme. We also utilize local and international interns in order to contribute to the pool of feminist litigators and policy developers. We facilitate legal workshops and create feminist spaces where womxn can educate themselves on the law and how they can use it as a tool to empower themselves and their communities.
Our work in this area includes written and oral submissions to the South African Parliament, regional and international human rights treaty bodies, and other relevant organisations.
We also participate in conferences, workshops, and discussions to advance our work on the rights of womxn. In addition, our media advocacy has proven a valuable tool in spreading our message and amplifying our reach through social and mainstream media.
We support womxn’s rights organisations and the broader feminist movement with the aim of strengthening womxn’s voices and advancing womxn’s rights.
By providing legal advice to the social justice sector, womxn’s organisations and civil society networks, nationally, regionally and internationally, we play a role in ensuring that the state and the private sector uphold their responsibilities in terms of the law and womxn’s rights.
Our Core Objectives
Develop law, policy, and feminist jurisprudence based on an intersectitional approach with substantitive equality as its foundation.
Drive a feminist agenda which acknowledges the impact that discriminatition has on womxn within their differences in class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.
Empower womxn across sectors to demand access to their rights.
Establish and develop a cadre of black feminist lawyers within the legal profession.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
The Womxn’s Legal Centre (WLC) is an African feminist legal centre that advances womxn’s rights and equality. The WLC has a vision of womxn in South Africa who enjoy equal and substantive access to their rights. The WLC seeks to achieve this vision through action in support of womxn’s rights using tools such as litigation, advocacy, education, advice, and training.
What We Do
The WLC seeks to achieve its long-term objectives through litigation and related advocacy for law reform. The Centre has identified five strategic areas in which to focus its activities:
The Right to favourable and just working conditions
We focus on helping to ensure that the rights of vulnerable workers are recognised and protected. In particular, but not limited to, a focus on farm workers, domestic workers, migrant workers, and sex workers.Read more
The Right to Land Housing and Property
We work to ensure that tenure and ownership of land is extended to womxn in their own right, and that womxn do not experience a loss of tenure on the dissolution of relationships.Read more
Equality in Relationships
We focus on the advancement and recognition of womxn’s independent rights in, and on the dissolution of, a relationship, so as to ensure fair and equitable access to resources and rights within the relationship, as well as once a relationship may end.Read more
Sexual And Reproductive Health And Rights
We work to promote and protect womxn’s right to make choices about their own reproductive health, and litigate to ensure that womxn have access to reproductive health care.Read more
The right to be free from violence
We attend to cases that combat the infringement of a womxn’s rights to safety and dignity, and seek to improve the access of womxn and (girl) children to state protection from violence, particularly sexual and domestic violence.Read more
In order to empower womxn through knowledge of their rights, the WLC offers FREE legal advice to them.
Wherever possible they are assisted by the Centre or referred to an appropriate institution, NGO or court for assistance. The bulk of the queries we receive involve the dissolution of partnerships, gender based violence and maintenance.
In the long term, we hope to contribute to building capacity in the sector so that it is more effective in advocating for the equality of womxn. Our advocacy and training work focuses on providing support to other organisations and groups of organisations which advocate the advancement of womxn’s rights in the WLC’s focus areas. We assist these organisations by providing legal opinions; drafting and making submissions to parliament; presenting workshops and drafting legislation, regulations and policies. We provide training to ensure the communication and implementation of gains won in court, and as an activity to recover costs.
Finally, working with a view to the transformation of the profession and broader society, we train candidate attorneys to ensure the transformation of the profession, and seek to make submissions on the gender record of acting judges before they are appointed. We also provide information, training and capacity building services on a regional level.
Ru du Toit
Centre for Health Change
Henrich Bohl Stichtung
Foundation for Human Rights
Open Society Foundation (SA)
Legal Aid Society
The Constitutionalism Fund