The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) is an independently funded law centre, which conducts public interest and constitutional gender litigation in partnership with the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT).
The WLC is staffed by attorneys who specialize in gender law and have extensive litigation experience. Their offices are based in Cape Town and Johannesburg and a satellite office in Khayelitsha (an informal settlement on the outskirts of Cape Town) and they have been operating for 15 years.
What is the mission, mandate and goals of your organisation?
The WLC has a vision of women in South Africa living free from violence in safe housing, free to own their own share of property, empowered to ensure their own reproductive health rights and able to work in a safe and equal environment.
In order to fulfil its objectives the WLC will, free of charge, litigate cases which advance women's rights and are in the public interest, particularly constitutional cases. We also produce briefs to assist courts in constitutional cases which concern women's rights and gender equality. In addition, we provide free legal advice to women and girls, and engage in advocacy campaigns and activities that advance women's rights. Where resources permit, the WLC also aims to provide women's organisations with technical legal assistance in making submissions to parliament and other institutions.
Over the last 15 years we have built specific expertise in this area and as a result we now occupy a critical and strategic position in the sector.
How does your organisation make African Women count?
The main purpose of the WLC is to advance and protect the rights of women in South Africa, particularly black women, who suffer many different and intersecting forms of disadvantage and systemic discrimination.
The WLC works at a national level in South Africa, and our work also spills over into the region. The demographics of our beneficiaries reflect the demographics of the country. We are committed to the transformation of the legal profession, and our legal training, paralegal and candidate attorney programmes are aimed at building the capacity of African women who wish to join the fight for gender equality.
What are your main successes as an organisation?
Through impact litigation, we have been involved in many groundbreaking judgements which has had a positive impact on women.
The WLC has been at the forefront of legal reform in relation to women’s equality since the Constitution came into effect, having won several precedent setting cases since its inception. Over the last three years the WLC has successfully represented clients or assisted the court as a friend of the court in:
The WLC is the only NGO that focuses only on the advancement of women’s rights through impact litigation. Over the last 15 years we have built specific expertise in this area and as a result we now occupy a critical and strategic position in the sector.
The WLC received the following awards:
2001: Women Demand Dignity White Ribbon Award for Making a Difference to End Violence against Women and Children.
2005 Women Lawyers of South Africa in Recognition of Contributions to Justice and The Legal Profession from the California Association of Black Lawyers, California Women Lawyer’s and the State Bar of California.
2009 Peter and Patricia Gruber International Women’s Rights Prize (joint winner)
What are the main challenges you face?
Like any Ngo, financial constraints limit the extent of achieving your objective to the extent that you would like.
Bearing in mind that the women we seek to assist are women in South Africa who suffer from multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and are socioeconomically disadvantaged, and the issues they are confronted with are of a sensitive nature, it is challenging to create social awareness among this vulnerable group.
So, also the stakeholders that we engage with to make change are not always co-operative.
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