International Development Law Organization

Accelerating Women’s Participation and Leadership in Customary and Informal Justice: Towards Access to Justice for All

An online event organized by the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) with the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and in partnership with the German Development Cooperation (GIZ)

Tuesday, 5 December 2023
2:00 – 3:30 PM CET

Women constitute the largest group of users of customary and informal justice (CIJ) systems for diverse reasons: in rural and peri-urban areas, CIJ is often cheaper, quicker, accessible in local languages, and regarded as more culturally legitimate than statutory alternatives. Women rely on these systems for the resolution of everyday justice problems, including those related to family and other civil matters, access to land and natural resources, housing, and money or debt; despite how many CIJ systems continue to perpetuate patriarchal values, reflect male-dominated structures, and produce discriminatory and harmful outcomes for women and girls.

Women are not only users, but also providers and administrators of justice in CIJ systems. There is an urgent need to ensure that women can claim customary and informal spaces of decision-making as part of achieving fairness, equality, and non-discrimination in justice administration. Women’s participation in CIJ administration can extend from decision-makers, mediators or adjudicators to paralegals, legal aid providers and CIJ advisors.

With the support of BMZ, and building on its extensive research on CIJ, IDLO developed an issue brief, Women’s Participation and Leadership in Customary and Informal Justice Systems, intended to shift the perspective from looking at CIJ solely through the lens of women justice-seekers and users of these systems to exploring the pathways that facilitate women’s meaningful participation and leadership in CIJ mechanisms. This perspective places the emphasis on women as agents of change in CIJ systems. The issue brief explores the structural factors and processes that advance or impede women’s representation and participation in CIJ systems; the roles women play in CIJ systems, and the impact of their engagement on the provision of CIJ services and access to justice more broadly. It advances evidence-based recommendations for policymakers and practitioners, to strengthen women’s representation, participation, and empowerment in CIJ systems.

This event will highlight women-led CIJ processes as well as measures to enhance women’s leadership roles in these systems. More specifically, the event seeks to (a) present the findings and recommendations of the issue brief on Women’s Participation and Leadership in Customary and Informal Justice Systems; (b) promote dialogue on and investment in enhancing participation and leadership of women in CIJ systems; and (c) identify concrete and innovative action for a gender-transformative engagement with CIJ systems that values women’s representation, including through development policies.


Opening Remarks: Fabricio Guariglia, Director, The Hague Office, IDLO

Interactive Dialogue:

  • Achim Johannsen, Deputy Head of Division G12 – Governance, BMZ, Germany
  • Rea Abada Chiongson, Senior Legal Advisor on Gender, IDLO
  • Sha Elijah B. Dumama-Alba, Attorney General, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Philippines
  • Makanatsa Makonese, Deputy Chief of Party, Advancing Rights in Southern Africa Programme, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative
  • Reajul Hoque, Advisor, Rule of Law and Good Governance, Justice and Prison Reform for Promoting Human Rights and Fighting Corruption Project, GIZ Bangladesh

Moderator: Fabricio Guariglia, Director, The Hague Office, IDLO

Simultaneous interpretation will be provided in English, French and Spanish.