This speech was delivered at The Elders' State of Hope Gathering on the topic of "Access to Justice for Women and Girls", co-hosted by Pathfinders for Peaceful, Justice and Inclusive Societies, on 1 March 2022.
Friends, first of all, let me say how excited I am to be sitting amongst this gathering and be able to see some of my old friends who I have missed for a long time.
From my experience of working in this particular area of access to justice for 40 years, I see no reason to be without hope. We marked the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action in 2020 and through the Generation Equality Forum in 2021. In this whole period, we have come forward. We have seen that women do not only create an agenda for themselves; they achieve those goals.
I am not at all unhappy with where we are today because when I look back, I see the dismal position from where we have come forward. For me, that is the reason why I have the energy still, although I am nearing 70 years of age, and I still feel young enough to go much further than I have in this field.
What I feel now is the biggest challenge for us, is not just to create forums and to create laws that give us the stepping stone into the world of access to justice, but now to see that the whole concept of access to justice expands to social justice, where people have access to social justice and that social justice is as important as legal justice.
We as human rights defenders are not just lawyers, we are social activists in many ways. Of course, we always have to choose the forum. We have to choose between the courts and the streets, and we have been there. We have been in both the streets and the courts and won many victories. The challenge for us now, is to make sure that the mechanisms that we have been able to create start functioning and functioning in a manner in which they are able to deliver what people expect of them.
I think that’s where my focus now is, especially in my country. With the colleagues in my region where situations and conditions are similar, we are all concentrating on making sure that what we have achieved now is sustainable and able to grow to be strong to be an accepted way of life where access to justice doesn’t have a question mark, it is something normal and achievable.