International Development Law Organization

Launch event: Women and Customary and Informal Justice Systems

WEBINAR - PANEL DISCUSSION  | 10 September 2020 |  14:00 – 16:00 CET​

Customary and Informal Justice Systems: Expanding Women’s Access to Justice and Gender Equality

Around the world, people claim rights and resolve disputes and grievances through a range of justice mechanisms.  In many settings, however, it is estimated that 80-90 per cent of disputes are dealt with outside the formal courts. Women, among others, often go to customary and informal justice (CIJ) systems to resolve their concerns, such as those related to family formation, inheritance, divorce, property rights, control and governance over land and natural resources, and even protection from violence.

Justice and development actors have been increasingly discussing how to improve engagement with CIJ to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 16 and access to justice for all as well as Goal 5 on gender equality. Despite their perceived advantages, many CIJ systems perpetuate patriarchal values, reflect male-dominated structures, and produce discriminatory and harmful outcomes for women and girls. These challenges call for a better understanding by placing women’s issues and concerns at the center of discussions on policy directions and entry points for engagement. COVID-19 has  exacerbated justice challenges, with reports of harmful practices, for example, surging in some contexts, while the long-term impacts of the pandemic point to the need to “enhance the ability of customary and informal justice systems to fill the widening justice gap.”

Held on Thursday, September 10 from 14:00 – 16:00 CET​ the webinar will provide the occasion for the online launch of IDLO’s third Brief in the "Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice" series, Women and Customary and Informal Justice Systems, which provides recommendations for engaging with CIJ systems  to facilitate and improve justice for women.

Key issues:

  • What can be done to improve strategic engagement with CIJ systems  for the promotion and protection of women’s rights?
  • What practical entry points and good practices offer concrete pathways for engagement?
  • What challenges are presented by COVID-19 for strategic engagement with CIJ systems for the enhancement of women’s human rights? How can we address these challenges?

Opening remarks and report launch:

  • Jan Beagle, Director-General, IDLO 

Panelists and moderator:

  • Hilary Gbedemah, Chairperson, CEDAW Committee 
  • Beth Roberts, Program Manager, Center for Women’s Land Rights, Landesa 
  • Emerlynne Gil, Senior International Legal Adviser, International Commission of Jurists
  • Rita Aciro-Lakor, Chief Executive Officer, Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET)
  • Dr. Fiona Hukula, Senior Research Fellow, Papua New Guinea National Research Institute
  • Romualdo Mavedzenge, Regional Manager, Africa, IDLO 
  • Dr. Ilaria Bottigliero, Director, Policy, Research and Learning, IDLO (Moderator)


Thursday, 10 September 2020  |  14:00 – 16:00 CET

Register here

Full concept note, agenda and speaker bios are available to download below.

For questions or to contact IDLO's Gender Team, please send an email to

IDLO's work on Customary and Informal Justice 

Consultation on Customary and Informal Justice Systems

In a bid to make justice accessible for all, IDLO has conducted a global consultation on customary and informal justice systems. The global dialogue is informed by a series of publications titled “Navigating Complex Pathways to Justice: Engagement with Customary and Informal Justice Systems” that seeks to advance policy dialogue and distill lessons from programming and research. As the international community strives to achieve Goals 5 and 16 of the 2030 Agenda, engaging with CIJ systems becomes increasingly important to realize justice for all and ensure that no one is left behind. 


Top image credit, left to right: ©UN Women_Ryan Brown / ©IFAD / ©mattiaath_Adobe Stock / ©World Vision