Each Wednesday, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Windhoek celebrates women and their accomplishments. This Wednesday, UNIC Windhoek celebrates Jozanne Klazen, a Senior Legal Aid Officer at the Directorate: Legal Aid of the Ministry of Justice. In an interview with UNIC Windhoek, Jozanne discusses her career, how the law can be used to promote gender equality and the importance of women’s empowerment. Check out her interview!
1.) Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career?
I completed my Bachelors of Laws (LL.B) degree in 2012 at the University of the Free State, in the Republic of South Africa. During my undergraduate studies, I was a tutor for Legal Practice and Legal Skills and was asked to coach the first and second year students in oral arguments and writing. I was also responsible for designing a tutor’s guide that entailed designing flow charts to display legal processes and step-by-step instructions for assignments. This experience afforded me the skills to train and work with a large group of people from diverse backgrounds.
In 2012, I participated in the Ninth Willem C. Vis (East) Commercial Arbitration Moot Competition that was held in Hong Kong. That same year, I was a founding member and the leader of a female hostel for off-campus students, Arista, at the University of the Free State. The next year, I completed the Justice Training Course along with the required attachment at a law firm.
I passed the legal practitioner’s qualifying examination and was duly admitted as a legal practitioner in the High Court of Namibia on 8th August 2014. That year, I also completed several courses towards a Master’s degree in Criminology, and my final thesis is still pending.
In June 2015, I was appointed as senior legal aid officer by the Directorate: Legal Aid, Ministry of Justice. I was stationed in Rehoboth to open and manage the first Legal Aid office. I represent clients in criminal matters on instructions from the Directorate.
In addition to my official representations, my office also assists and advises the public on legal matters and assists them with legal aid applications. My office receives referrals from social workers, who are housed at the Rehoboth Magistrates’ Court premises, and when I am available, I advise the referrals on further legal steps.
2.) What challenges have you come across, if any, because of your gender throughout your career?
I have been lucky that I have not experienced any obvious challenges based on my gender. Being relatively young throughout my career so far, I succeeded in my first job application and have been selected for leadership positions in every organisation I have joined thus far. However, in all fairness, my past positions have been at female-based organisations, and sexism was not an issue.
As a feminist, I also tend to lead towards organisations with a female empowerment agenda. I realise making it in a male-dominated industry is challenging and sexism is still well alive in Namibia, but luckily, the Directorate: Legal Aid has a relatively balanced workforce and no apparent sexism can be noted.
3.) What are your thoughts on women's empowerment, and why is it important? Women’s empowerment starts with women’s education, training and employment. I believe the family unit is an important cornerstone of society, and unfortunately, today, in Namibia, the bulk of the domestic life responsibilities still rests primarily on the mothers.
Our labour laws afford protection for women who wish to start a family, but unfortunately, organisations are still slow to recognise that a multitasking woman may require adjusted working hours and more flexible working conditions.
I believe women’s empowerment is important because it creates a society where women are afforded the choices to be successful in all spheres of society they wish to enter. One specific insult to women’s empowerment is our lack of laws protecting the woman’s right over her body and reproduction.
4.) How can the legal profession promote gender equality?
Currently, we still suffer a disparity with female judicial officers, especially in the Supreme Court and High Court of Namibia. Also, it is important to promote and support more females to aspire to join advocacy. There is a disparity among practising female and male advocates in Namibia. The law society and the Bar for Advocates provide opportunity for training, but generally not specifically targeting woman.
5.) Do you think the law in Namibia promotes gender-justice?
On paper, the law may promote gender justice, but routinely female accused persons are given leniency based on their gender or seldom persecuted for maintenance claims. Women are made to believe they are fragile and in need of extra consideration solely based on their gender.
Men are not generally openly encouraged to report domestic abuse from their female domestic partners. Units in the police force are named “Women and Child Abuse Centers” when it should cater for all domestic abuse cases. The language and accommodations made for females reinforce gender roles and priorities in society. Not to disregard the statistics, but it is important to address the language and messages woman receive about their place in society.
6.) What is your advice to girls following their dreams? Realising your dreams comes with the intense study of yourself. Realising a dream is easier if the dream takes into account all your attributes. And the lucky thing about attributes is that you can always learn new ones and improve on old ones. Following a dream at times means you are the only one that believes you can achieve it, and once you have tried and failed to explain or rally support, at the end of the day you have to use what you have to get what you need in order to follow your dreams.
Sometimes it is a lonely road, but find a company in other women/men who are also following their dreams. Look to people who have achieved a dream similar to yours or are on the path with you or someone that inspires an aspect of your dream.
7.) What is your motto in life?
I find encouragement in the saying that, “You only fail once you have given up”.