“Someone who is a domestic worker could not have afforded [legal services],” Lulama said. “And yet, when you look at the impact of what the case has done now and will do in the future, it`s immeasurable.” Labour legislation in South Africa is currently being amended by Parliament to include domestic workers as a result of this case. The Centre`s lawyers are also committed to training the next generation of Black women lawyers through training, internships and their trainee lawyers who are lawyers in training. In the legal workshops, the women who work at the centre learn how to learn the law and how to use it to strengthen themselves and their communities. The Centre also has a weekly helpdesk at the Family Court in Cape Town and in Khayelitsha, one of the formerly black-only townships, to ensure that women, particularly women from marginalized communities, have equal access to the exercise of their constitutional rights. In 2020 alone, they provided free legal advice to 960 women. And if customers couldn`t make it to the office due to COVID-19, they could still get free legal advice over the phone or WhatsApp. “You can`t try to change the law or try to enforce it [or] implement it in communities in a way that is detached from the people involved or the people who need to participate in the legal system,” Lulama said. To do this, we conduct strategic impact processes in the interest of women, legal representation, free legal advice for women and provide training to communities, partners and officials.
The exercise of their constitutional rights is a major obstacle for women. The high cost of going to court makes it out of reach for women most in need of legal protection. The Women`s Law Centre is trying to change this by taking gratuitous lawsuits on behalf of women, challenging established principles and striking down discriminatory laws. The center`s team has championed human rights successes and advocated for women`s rights in a variety of circumstances, including cases of violence against women, protecting the rights of women giving up their children for adoption, and advocating for the rights of HIV/AIDS positive women. They have also recently helped secure more rights for domestic workers in the country through the case of Mahlangu and Another v. Minister of Labour and others. In Cape Town, the Women`s Legal Centre team advocates for women`s rights and advocates for women when they are most vulnerable. They are at the forefront of the evolving South African legal landscape.
And as South Africa`s only African feminist legal centre for women`s rights, they are making great strides, especially for black women. They specialize in protecting the rights of women, especially black women, in court. They defend the right to decent and fair working conditions, the right to land, housing and property, equality in relationships, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the right to non-violence. “We are ironing out the problems [of the legal system],” Lulama said. “I want to do part to defend these values and ideals,” said Lulama Shongwe, a lawyer (lawyers in training) at the centre. In 1999, a small group of Cape Town women`s lawyers established an independently-funded, non-profit legal centre focused exclusively on women`s rights. Since then, the Women`s Legal Centre has gained a reputation in South Africa and abroad for promoting women`s rights, and several precedents have been set that will have a profound impact on the lives of many women. The Women Legal Centre is an independently funded non-profit legal centre founded by a group of lawyers. The Women`s Legal Centre is a centre working for women`s equality in South Africa. “Most of us are black women in the organization,” Lulama said.
The centre`s clients are also predominantly black women. “Everything we do through our work for another black woman, we do for ourselves and also for someone on our team.” Lulama says a win is not just a win for his client. This is a victory for the client, for his families, daughters, sisters and the centre. “We call her a `feminist activist,`” said Seehaam Samaai, director of the center. “It is very important for us to ensure that the courts, parliament, national or even regional structures see these realities of women on the ground.” As access to justice is largely inaccessible to poor women, especially black women, the WLC plays an important role in litigation in their interest and gives them access to free legal advice. The country`s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, founded the country`s first black law firm with Oliver Tambo, a South African politician. Today, South Africa`s constitution is considered one of the most progressive in the world. It guarantees civil rights, reflects social aspects such as the right to drinking water and health, and stipulates that individuals and the State must not discriminate on the basis of sex. Seehaam said she is proud of her resilience as she reflects on what they accomplished in 2020, even though some employees contracted COVID-19 and one member of her team died. “During COVID-19, I really noticed the resilience of the organization,” Seehaam said. “It was really important for us to make sure we embodied a feminist sense of caring.” A domestic worker named Sylvia Bongi Mahlangu was injured on the job and died. At that time, his family could not claim a workplace accident because domestic workers in South Africa had no labour rights.
“This family was essentially destitute after their mother died,” Lulama said. Not only did they have to face their deaths, but they could have been on the brink of poverty. “As soon as we stop paying attention to human rights in general, we do an even more difficult service to women and their rights, because their problems will never be brought to the fore. We will never talk about it. They will never be taken into account,” Lulama said. “That`s why the human rights discourse is important to me. Because it brings us to a place where we can think about certain populations of humanity who need that extra attention, who need extra support. “The WLC has a vision of women in South Africa who are free from violence, empowered to guarantee their own reproductive and health rights, free to own their own share of property, have safe housing and work in a safe and equal environment. Lulama Shongwe, photo courtesy of Fortaleza Agency. “The work done in 2020 was much, much higher than the year before,” Seehaam said. “When we start working on high-profile cases, we miss those people on the ground. Working with human rights defenders has just shown and opened our eyes to the challenges women face on the ground when trying to access justice, and it keeps us committed to changing the system for them.
» Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to report outdated information or ask a question about this profile. 7th Floor Constitution House, 124 Adderley Street (Church Street Cnr) Cape Town 8000 South Africa The Women`s Legal Centre team wants to ensure that these values and ideals permeate every woman in South Africa. That`s why the Women`s Legal Centre was founded. We are looking at the whole system to make sure women`s voices are heard,” Seehaam added. The verdict in Mahlangu and Another v. Minister of Labour and Others has had a lasting impact on women`s rights in South Africa, particularly the rights of black women, as many domestic workers in South Africa are black women. “Most of the cases we take care of are the types of cases that change the landscape for more than one person,” Lulama said. While South Africa has a strong constitution, the majority of black women have not seen any real improvement in their daily lives, especially in rural areas. The level of gender-based violence is extremely high, women are impoverished and vulnerable due to the dissolution of their relationships (loss of access to assets acquired during the relationship) and many women lack basic access to land or housing.