Feminist Litigation Network: 2024 – 2026: Anglophone Africa

        I.            BACKGROUND

The Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) was founded in 2014, as a non-profit organisation. ISLA is a Pan-African and feminist initiative which engages the rule of law within African domestic and regional courts to advance sexual and women’s human rights. We are Pan-African because we resist imperialism, fundamentalism including religious and traditionalists, by building a positive cultural context through affirming and asserting African traditional values that are consistent with human rights. We highlight positive developments and emphasise cross-learnings from various countries on the continent. We seek to highlight and assert women’s leadership and contribution in the African Human Rights System by making visible women’s voices and experiences in the jurisprudence to surface gender bias. Feminism is at the heart of our endeavours: our work is designed to challenge patriarchy, class and power relations by centering women’s voices and women’s agency.

ISLA’s goals are:

  1. To develop jurisprudence through the courts to hold state and non-state actors accountable for violations of rights on the basis of gender and sexualities.
  2. To create an enabling environment for strategic litigation to happen with the focus on strengthening lawyers, social movements, and institutions that work on strategic litigation.
  3. To strengthen civil society to respond to threats and attacks that weaken civic space and human rights broadly, and to organise to maximise the potential embedded in sudden political or social opportunities.


In accordance with the stated goals, ISLA is excited to announce that recruitment for partner organisations seeking to join Phase Three of the Feminist Litigation Network (2024 – 2026) is now open. Joining the Feminist Litigation Network provides the organisations and women feminist lawyers an opportunity to:

  1. Strengthen the institutions and lawyers’ capacity for strategic litigation in different fora on the continent.
  2. Contribute to the creation and nurturing of a pool of African feminist litigators.
  3. Contribute to the development of feminist jurisprudence in domestic courts, regional and international human rights forum.
  4. Create sustainable partnerships between movements, communities, and institutions in the strategic litigation process.


The Feminist Litigation Network (FLN) is ISLA’s response to the causal linkages between the dearth of women’s rights cases referred to domestic and regional human rights systems and the lack of legal information and skills deficit of lawyers. ISLA has come to understand these linkages as:

  1. Many organisations funded to do strategic litigation are legal-aid service providers.
  2. Strategic litigation requires specialised training and resources for litigators to explore the broader legal context in which routine cases are pursued.
  3. Capacity strengthening programmes are offered sporadically and often lack the targeted follow-up which is crucial to long term success.
  4. Most lawyers who attend training programmes come from institutions which are not equipped to litigate strategically.
  5. Strategic litigation is a tool amongst a range of advocacy strategies by movements but is often viewed as lawyer-centric and divorced from the communities it seeks to serve.

In response to the above ISLA has designed the FLN through an iterative process. This process has revealed that effective feminist litigation on women’s human rights requires an eco-system that supports it. Considering this the FLN seeks to work with partner organisations to address capacity, conceptual and resource gaps. Addressing these gaps will enable civil society organisations (CSOs) committed to strategic litigation as a tool to better work alongside social movements to co-create and co-lead litigation within broader advocacy, research, and service provision strategies of those movements.

The FLN works through four pillars to achieve its mandate and ISLA’s goals: Institutional strengthening, capacity strengthening, network development, and relationship development.

1.      Institutional Strengthening

The aim of this pillar is to create an enabling environment for strategic litigation by mobilising commitment in and support civil society organisations to provide sustained leadership and management in building effective feminist strategic litigation units within their institutions. The Institutional strengthening pillar focuses on partnership between organisations and ISLA that co-create a model for an enabling environment for strategic litigation aimed at contributing to feminist jurisprudence. In this iteration of the FLN we shall develop an institutional strengthening curriculum and work with each partner to complete the curriculum. To ensure joint and cross learning. The Institutional Strengthening pillar shall also work to incorporate movements engaged with the institutions in the litigation process. Finally, ISLA has developed and institutionalised several tools and processes that aid in strategic litigation. The incorporation of these tools and processes shall be included in the curriculum and shall be made available as part of the institutional strengthening process.

Using a hub model with ISLA as the anchor institution, we seek to foster various types of partnerships with organisations: Core, Associate and Case Development partners.

  1. Core Network Partnerships: A Strategic Litigation Unit is created within the Network Partner organisation and a lawyer is recruited and employed by the local partner. ISLA makes funding available to the network partner to recruit and employ a full-time lawyer where ISLA is committed to paying 50% of the lawyer’s salary. This lawyer will exclusively focus on strategic litigation. Organisations that are core network partners must commit at least two of their women strategic litigators, including the jointly recruited lawyer, to attend the litigation institutes for three years.
  2. Associate Network Partnership: If a Strategic Litigation Unit already exists within the Network Partner’s organisation meaning that there are already lawyers employed to litigate strategic litigation cases and that are engaged with strategic litigation (including potentially having active cases), we focus on strengthening the capacity of the lawyers to litigate strategically through their commitment to attend the litigation institutes twice a year for three years. The lawyers may also be eligible for technical support in the development of litigation within ISLA’s thematic areas. This partnership is centered on the strengthening of an existing unit and not on support to set up a strategic litigation unit.

2.      Capacity strengthening

This pillar seeks to provide sustained support to lawyers in civil society organisations to understand and use feminist approaches to strategic litigation and to engage in case development for strategic litigation on women’s human rights as an integral part of communities and movements working on these issues.

The Capacity Strengthening Pillar’s core module is the Litigation Institutes. Litigation institutes are two-week intensive capacity strengthening activities that take place twice a year over a period of 3 years. The faculty, which comprise of both academic and legal practitioners with expertise in various thematic areas incorporate theoretical and practical components throughout the institutes. The curriculum focuses on the development of knowledge and skill on the instrumentalisation of comparative law, human rights methods, contextual feminist legal theory and strategic litigation on sexual rights and women’s human rights. The participants are capped at 12 in order to accommodate full engagement, one-on-one contact sessions with members of faculty and in-depth interaction with the reading and presentations provided by the experts.

The overall objectives of Litigation Institutes are to:

  1. Encourage and coordinate knowledge production and sharing between partner lawyers on identified capacity building needs within identified subject areas.
  2. Improve capacity of lawyers within the region in strategic litigation on women’s human rights cases internationally, regionally and at the domestic level through the contribution of experts in certain thematic areas.

Inter-session learning and development shall also be critical to the development of members of the FLN. This shall include learning initiated by ISLA (In depth seminars, strategy consultations), as well as other opportunities identified by members of the FLN that contribute to their growth as feminist litigators and movement lawyers.

3.      Network Development

This pillar is geared to build the FLN as a coalition of feminist litigators and communities most affected by the issues being litigated on as an integral part of the movements working on these issues. This pillar seeks to do two things: firstly, create a home for the feminist litigator in an often hostile, male dominated and violent space.  This pillar shall bring together alumni of the FLN and members of the third cohort in a space for learning, exchange of ideas, debriefing, and recuperating. This space shall be structured both formally and informally.

Secondly, this pillar shall create linkages between the feminist litigator and movements and communities most affected by the work we do. Related to the Institutional Strengthening and Capacity strengthening pillars, we shall work to intentionally ensure that communities are centered in the litigation process. This shall be dually pronged: institutions with the systems in place for meaningful community engagement as part of strategic litigation; and feminist litigators that are also movement lawyers.

4.      Relationship Management

The final pillar establishes and sustains relationships with past, present, and potential partners so that their institutional, thematic and litigation capabilities are strengthened through the multiple mechanisms, processes, activities, and tools offered by the FLN. This pillar ensures that the tripartite relationship between ISLA, partner organisations and network lawyers runs smoothly. This includes agreements entered with partner, meetings and check-ins, performance management, collaboration, and co-creation of processes, as well ensuring partners can benefit from knowledge produced by ISLA.


ISLA desires partners that understand its long-term vision and can locate strategic litigation as a core part of their organisational work. The lawyers need not be experts in specific thematic areas but rather are women lawyers who understand ISLA’s vision and objectives and whose work is located in the social movements, see themselves as being a part of building a social movement by using strategic litigation as a tool for social change. Thus, the partner organisation must have the ability to make preliminary assessments on the effectiveness of the work according to the stated objectives.

ISLA notes the position of some organisations’ close working capacity and co-operation with the State in the realisation of human rights. We however also recognise the tension that exists in holding the state accountable to human rights violations and are thus seeking institutions that are intentional in taking up the role to challenge the status quo. The partnership criterion to join the FLN partnership requires that:

  1. The organisation’s political orientation is aligned with that of ISLA: Feminist and focused on holding States and other duty bearers accountable for violation of women’s human rights. The organisation should approve of the use of feminist legal methods.
  2. Preferably, the organisation’s strategic litigation cases should be within ISLA’s thematic areas of work or be directed at creating an enabling environment for strategic litigation for example, cases that focus on practises and procedures that hinder strategic litigation. ISLA’s thematic areas of focus are:

–        Violence Against Women (VAW)

                          i. VAW as a form of gender discrimination.

                        ii. Violence women face (domestic violence, rape sexual harassment, sexual assault, human trafficking, cyber bases harassment).

                       iii. Women in conflict with the law.

                       iv. VAW and women with disabilities.

                        v. VAW and LBT women.

–        Women’s Socio-Economic Rights (WSER)

                          i. Women’s right to inheritance.

                        ii. Distribution of matrimonial property at the time of dissolution of the marriage.

                       iii. Women’s rights to land and property.

                       iv. Extractives.

                        v. Fair and non-discriminatory working conditions

                                   vi. Education

                                 vii. Health

–        Practices and procedures

                                      i.      Litigating on practices and procedures that are barriers to strategic litigation.

                                     ii.      Effective use of legal tools, including the weaponisation of, (amicus curiae, costs, standing and remedies).

                                   iii.      Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP).

  • Strategic litigation must be an organisational strategy that is appreciated as an effective tool for social change. The organisation must be willing to create an enabling environment for strategic litigation.
  1. The organisation (for core and associate partners) must have two or more women lawyers within the organisation who are:
    • Qualified to litigate/are advocates (have the right of appearance in the jurisdiction they work in);
    • Using litigation or are interested in using litigation as a significant part of their practice and are willing to litigate matters during the three-year partnership as well as institutionalise knowledge on strategic litigation.
    • Have an understanding on women’s human rights and feminism, as well as a willingness to build their knowledge on ISLA’s strategic areas and a positive attitude towards learning.
    • Can commit to participate in ISLA’s capacity strengthening activities such as the Litigation Institutes that take place for two weeks twice a year. Attendance over the three-year period for each litigation institute is mandatory; and
    • The partner lawyer(s) must be housed within the partner organisation.


We invite organisations that meet the selection criteria to complete the application form. This application form is divided into two sections:

  • Section A: Organisation Application Form
  • Section B: Lawyers’ Application Form

Section B: Lawyers’ Application Form must be completed by the lawyers intending to join the Feminist Litigation Network through their organisation.

All applications must be submitted in English. Kindly complete the application form online via the link: FLN Phase 3: Application Submission.


The deadline for submission is Tuesday, 10th October 2023. This shall be followed by a partner assessment process which shall take the form of on-site visits where necessary (the schedule of these visits shall be agreed upon with partners). ISLA will communicate with the selected organisations by Thursday, 30th November 2023 to begin the formalisation process of the agreement.

Kindly email nerima@the-isla.org for questions or technical difficulties throughout this process.