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Who We Are

The Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) is a Pan-African and feminist led initiative that aims to contribute to the development of jurisprudence on sexual rights and women’s human rights on the continent by providing expertise on strategic litigation. We began operations in July 2014 and were incorporated in February 2015. The need for an organisation like ours was born out of a concern of the dearth of jurisprudence before the African Human Rights Systems and domestic courts, which focus on the violations of women’s human rights and sexual rights.

Despite persistent and visible human rights violations based on gender and sexuality, current legal efforts to hold states accountable for the violations of human rights have not produced a lot of jurisprudence. At ISLA, we believe that a sustained investment in local institutions and individuals is the key to creating a critical mass of domestic lawyers who can engage in strategic litigation. This method is used to bring about significant change, via taking carefully selected cases to court and using them to change law, practice and public awareness. We work side-by-side with targeted institutions and individuals to provide ongoing capacity strengthening programmes. We aim to create a network of African women’s rights organisations, sexual rights and legal practitioners, who will identify and engage with issues at a regional level with the end-goal of social transformation.

Why We Exist

We seek to revolutionise the way that strategic litigation is used to enable broader access to justice and support those who seek to hold states accountable for violations of women’s human rights and sexual rights.

  • We want to develop jurisprudence before domestic courts, the African Human Rights Systems and UN treaty bodies on ISLA’s thematic areas of focus areas.
  • We want to nurture and facilitate a critical mass of lawyers who can do strategic litigation and support a culture of social justice lawyering.  We provide the necessary training in strategic litigation that is needed for lawyers to contribute to strategic litigation cases. We provide quality and long-term support to partner institutions to provide individual and institutional support, an essential component of successful legal outcomes.
  • We believe that an enabling environment needs to exist to facilitate strategic litigation. We  work with our partners to change laws and practices that constitute barriers to strategic litigation.  These laws include restrictive amicus curiae provisions, adverse cost orders against complainants in human rights cases and prohibition of Non Governmental Organisations from providing legal representation.

Ultimately, we want to hold states accountable for human rights violations.