Sydney, Friday 4th March 2011, UN International Women’s Day Centenary Breakfast.
I was among 1,700 people who were blown away by Unity Dow and her story. Humble and funny, quiet and determined, a village girl who took on the constitution and existing national culture and won. When her American husband went back to college and became a dependent, their children were then deemed to have become non-Botswanan citizens. If it had been the other way round, that would not have been the case.
So Unity gave her government 30 days’ notice that she was going to sue them, did so, and won every stage of the legal arguments over the next 5 years.
To their great credit, the government then accepted that there was something wrong with their constitution and started a national consultation exercise. One village chief was incensed by the perceived weakness of her husband in allowing her to be the head of her family … so came down strongly in favour of allowing the constitution to be changed to give women equal status, as she had proved that this was now the reality!
Unity is now Botswana’s first female High Court judge and a living example of how to combine traditional values, respect, and citizenship with a burning sense of justice – and success in changing things permanently for the better. My hero!