Women in the legal sector who work hard but are not recognised for their efforts now have a chance to step into the limelight.
The Women in Law Awards (WOZA) were launched at the Pepper Club Hotel in Loop Street, in the presence of women attorneys from all over South Africa.
WOZA was launched to honour and celebrate the achievements of women who have made a difference in the legal profession, by bringing together legal practitioners, in-house legal counsel, thought leaders, innovators, along with leaders from government and academia.
The initiative is the brainchild of director of Rehana Khan Parker and Associates, Rehana Parker, who said the idea came to her while she attended a law summit, where the number of women attorneys was very low.
“I needed to do something about this. Where were all the female lawyers? Then and there, I started penning the idea of an awards ceremony that would recognise women in law and have them support each other in a space of like-minded women.
“A woman who works in an advice office on the Cape Flats, or a woman who does administration for an attorney, or a government employee will never be recognised unless given the platform. Also, there was a need for the WOZA awards as South Africa does not have a stand-alone awards programme for women in law.”
She said the awards are for women in law across all sectors – attorneys, NGOs, government workers, corporate, or even final-year law students.
The entries will be judged by a panel of five women and will be announced on Wednesday May 15.
The awards will be handed out at a gala evening on Thursday August 1, which marks the first day of Women’s Month.
She said the vision for the venture was to create a Women in Law leadership academy, a school where women in law contribute their time to teach law students leadership and entrepreneurship.
Among the women who attended the launch was Nonoza Potelwa, who opened her own firm on the Foreshore a few years ago.
Ms Potelwa specialises in general litigation and has two candidate attorneys working with her who do criminal and family law.
“We are in the city centre so we get a lot of walk-in clients, and try to assist wherever possible.”
She said she found out about WOZA because Ms Parker had worked with her at the Cape Law Society years back.
“I feel like this is relevant to me because it will give people like me recognition for the work I put into my firm. This is also an opportunity for me to get mentorship and to network. It’s an opportunity for my candidate attorneys to rub shoulders with other attorneys and for us to learn.”
She said she was particularly excited about the leadership academy as it was something she wanted to be part of.
Candidate attorney Luleka Dzai said one of the topics of discussion they had during WOZA workshops was the challenge of justice being available to everyone and the fact that lawyers had to be paid for their services.
“We’ve also noticed that there were not many female lawyers in the IT sector.”
She said there were also
talks about developing an app, which would act as a directory and a platform for attorneys to converse.
Ms Potelwa said women in law tended to limit themselves to things that they could practice, such as family law, and the awards would help give women the confidence they needed to branch out.
The public can nominate any person with a law degree across the legal profession. For nomination categories and more information, visit www.woza.today