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WLS Celebrates International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and the theme this year is ‘Choose to Challenge’. In honour of this, we are celebrating the amazing work our colleagues are carrying out in order to forge a gender equal world. Here is a just a small selection of some of that work.

Solange Mouthaan

My research focuses on gender as an important factor shaping the reality and lived experiences of men, women and children in armed conflict which has culminated in an edited collection on Gender and War - International and Transitional Justice Perspectives. My current interests focus more specifically on conflict-related experiences of children and brings to the fore some of the overlooked gendered experiences of children in armed conflict. Specific concerns of girls may be silenced by the broader framework of childhood or womanhood thus positioning girls at the peripheries of legal protections. By adding these experiences into the mix of gendered narratives around armed conflict, it may help strive towards a more gender equal world. In addition, this encourages alternative more female friendly interpretations of international crimes, such as for example, the recruitment and use of children to actively participate in armed conflict, to which generally a male lens is applied.

Professor Vanessa Munro

Vanessa has been researching on the topic of feminist theory and law/policy responses to gender-based violence for over 25 years. She has looked at issues spanning reproductive agency, sex trafficking and prostitution policy, and the handling of women’s asylum applications in the UK. The main focus of her research has, however, been around sexual violence and domestic abuse. She has conducted a series of projects advocating for more trauma-informed approaches within the criminal justice process, exploring prosecutorial and jury decision-making in rape cases, and illuminating the links between domestic abuse and suicidality. Her current projects include – being part of the JICSAV team (led by colleagues at Coventry and Lancaster Universities) that explores the justice journeys of survivors of sexual violence during the Covid pandemic; and working with a range of other colleagues to evaluate professional and lay understandings of the coercive control offence, the use of sexual history and private data in Scottish rape trials, the impact of retention of the Not Proven verdict in Scotland on rape complainers, and the adequacy of responses by UK Universities to complaints of sexual violence and misconduct. She currently sits on the Ministry of Justice’s End to End Rape Review, the Commonwealth Expert Group of the Human Dignity Trust, and the Academic Advisory Group of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, and her work has informed development of judicial directions and use of remote testimony in rape cases.

Cherisse Francis (1st year PhD student)

My current research focuses on trafficking in persons also called ‘modern slavery’ in the English-speaking Caribbean. It seeks to challenge the construction of current legal, political, and theoretical framing of anti-trafficking efforts in the Anglophone Caribbean. A large part of the work seeks to examine the way that transplanted Global North ideas, policies and discourses portray trafficking which has often been through the unequal and gendered lens of sex work and victimhood. As a result, this research will unravel the system that currently exists to stimulate discussion and propose a path for development in anti-trafficking which is more equal between the sexes, races and classes.

Professor Ann Stewart

A Fair Chance for Education: Gendered Pathways to Educational Success in Haryana is a five-year action research project that seeks to determine the gendered factors that contribute to educational success for young people in Haryana, India. Haryana experiences significant gender-based practices that affect the ability of young people to access and remain within the education system, and to progress into higher education. The project therefore focusses on gendered social relations and gender differences in choices, obstacles and opportunities for young people as they progress through the education system, and ultimately intends to devise a programme of actions that can bring about positive social change. Our research finds that a number of young women from families that have not had much educational opportunity are accessing government higher education colleges. They are acting as trailblazers in their families but there is much more that can be done to ensure fairer access. Our project is developing outreach ‘toolkits’ which can be used to assist families and colleges to widen participation. We want more opportunities for young women from disadvantaged backgrounds to access higher education.

But we cannot forget about older women; who cares for older women in rural Africa? Ann has also been involved in a series of linked research projects on gender and ageing in Africa. The first on caring for older women in the changing socio-economic and political circumstances in Kenya, with a particular focus on the effects of the traditional, community and family customs of caring for older people. This led secondly to collaboration with HelpAge International to create a policy discussion paper (together with Dr Lander) that explores the way in which intersecting inequalities affect life courses and gender relations in older age. More recently, Professor Stewart has been exploring the wider continental impacts, and has expanded research to Malawi and Ethiopia. She wants to highlight among African regional policy makers, the importance of adopting a life course perspective to gender and ageing and in the development of long term care policies.

Dr Sharifah Sekalala

My work seeks to challenge the ways in which women carers are harmed during global health crises such as Ebola, Zika or even the current COVID-19 crisis. For instance, within the current COVID-19 crisis, healthcare workers have been hailed as heroes, and the country is out on the streets every week clapping for them. In the UK, the Prime Minister has even named his newly born son after one of them, and they have been given preferential treatment by many retailers, with some restaurants even providing them with free meals. But who exactly are the people shouldering the sharp end of the burden of COVID-19? Occasionally, we read headlines about particularly brave surgeons or nurses – far less often about healthcare workers, who constitute the vast majority of those risking their lives every day to support the healthcare system. The entire system is also being sustained by largely women carers who are now doing much more caring at home as children are off school even when they are still working remotely. In my research, I challenge the lack of legal protections for these women carers. Blog Post | Journal Article.

Priscilla Vitoh (1st year PhD student)

My research focuses on the interlinkage between property rights and access to finance for women-owned Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana. Like their counterparts in most sub-Saharan countries, Ghanaian women constitute the majority of the small informal business owning population in the country. Indeed, the MasterCard foundation ranks Ghana as having the third-highest economy with women business owners. While there is a considerable number of women-owned Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Ghana, there seems to be minimal growth for such businesses into large scale enterprises. A primary factor ascribed to the lack of business growth is the lack of access to finance, which is linked to the weakness of female property rights. A target under UN Sustainable Goals 5 on Gender equality links women’s economic growth to strong property rights. This research will seek to critically analyse the impact of property rights on SME credit availability and affordability from Financial Institutions in Ghana. Using a feminist socio-legal perspective, it challenges the notion that formal legislation on property based on Global North policy recommendations is adequate to strengthen the property rights of Ghanaian women. Deeply ingrained cultural and social practices based on hegemony and patriarchy continue to place women at a disadvantage in property rights. Consequently, the research will engage with the issue of property rights in the context of legal pluralism to ascertain how customary law and formal property rights can interact symbiotically to improve the property rights of women in Ghana.

Professor Jackie Hodgson

Working with fellow Law School colleague Vanessa Munro, and colleagues from Sheffield (Dr Layla Skinns), Cardiff (Dr Roxanna Dehaghani) and the Independent Custody Visiting Association (Katie Kempen), I have been expanding my work on the rights and fair treatment of suspects held for questioning in police custody, to focus specifically on female detainees. Police stations have been largely staffed and run by men, with little attention paid to the needs of female detainees who make up one in seven of all those held in police custody. Being searched by a female rather than a male officer; having access to sanitary products; or being aware of the large number of female suspects who are themselves victims of violence, abuse and other forms of coercion, are all key in respecting the dignity and ensuring the proper treatment of women and girls held in police custody. Through the Centre for Operational Police Research, we have conducted a small pilot project in four police force areas, speaking to women in police custody about their needs and experiences. With the strong support of several police forces, we hope to secure funding to conduct a large-scale project investigating how and why women come to be detained; and to evaluate the nature of their treatment and experiences of custody, including how they navigate their relationship with police authority.

Rohini Sen (2nd year PhD student)

A lot of my work is grounded in queer-feminist methods and theory and looks to interrogate how structures (visible and invisible) produce and sustain barriers (again, visible and invisible). I use this as an overarching framework for all my academic work and my most recent inquiry is on critical international law pedagogy and how that reproduces these biases inadvertently. The following links are for two of my most recent short pieces - each look to reframe gender questions in certain ways.

Anatomy of Gendered Academia: What early career scholars should know

Critical Pedagogy Symposium: The Emotional Labour of Teaching

My other research looks to study the undercurrents of sexual harassment in higher education institutes in India.

Well done to all of them for their hard work and to the rest of our colleagues and students (not listed) for their contributions.

Mon 08 Mar 2021, 09:30 | Tags: Student Achievement, Staff in action, Feature