#EmpowerHer ??? Salute To Trailblazing Unity Dow: Botswana’s First Female High Court Judge

By Duchess Magazine

Unity Dow: Botswana's First Female High Court Judge

Black women have had to fight through countless obstacles such as racism and discrimination to make it to the top. Regardless of several limitations posed, black queens have been able to distinguish themselves, making extraordinary contributions in their respective fields and society at large, thereby taking their place as trailblazers and setting pace for others to follow.

Only a few get the honours of being described as a phenomenon. Today we celebrate one of such individuals, a visionary and pacesetter, a proud pioneer in her field with a prolific résume to prove!
Prominent human rights activist, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the first female High Court judge in Botswana, Unity Dow!

The 61 year old, an authoritative voice in her field held an 11 year tenure as High Court Judge. Prior to being appointed to the High Court, Dow was already a formidable human rights activist. As a criminal prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney in Botswana, she had amassed great success as well. Dow established herself as a tireless advocate for equality and justice, fighting for rights of children and women, handling cases of rape and child marriage.

In 1992, Dow earned high reputation following her groundbreaking case which involved her actively challenging the national law that prohibited Botswanan women married to non-citizens from conferring nationality to their children, she won.

Unity Dow: Botswana's First Female High Court Judge #EmpowerHer

Further stamping her mark, as judge, in 2006 she delivered a landmark case which received wide spread attention internationally, garnering even more critical acclaim. The case saw Botswana’s Bushmen take the government to court over the right to live and hunt in the central Kalahari game reserve. In the trial, dubbed Bostwana’s longest and most expensive trial to date, Dow ruled that the Bushmen should be allowed to return to their ancestral lands.

No stopping her:
After leaving her indelible mark in her legal career, in 2009, Unity Dow retired from her position as the judge, having served for 11 years. She then established her Legal Firm called Dow & Associates in Botswana.

Unity continued amassing great successes both locally and internationally, including being the judge of the IICDRC (Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court) of Kenya, in 2010

As strong advocate of women, Dow established co-founded the AIDS Action Trust and the Women and Law in Southern Africa Research Project.

In 2015, Unity Dow was appointed Minister of Education and Skills Development for Botswana.

Also an accomplished author, Dow has published five books with topics spanning from Western and traditional values, equity, justice, poverty amongst others.

Unity has also been participating in several special UN missions to African countries like Rwanda and Sierra Leone.

She is a proud receipent of several distinguished honours and awards including; the French Medal of the Légiond’honneur de France by representatives of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy for her human rights activities.

Trip down memory lane;

Born 23rd of April 1959 in the rural
city of Mochudi, Bostwana, to parents who were not highly educated but strongly believed in the value of education, Dow’s road to success was early carved by her background. Growing up in a largely patriarchy country dared her to break the mould. Although her parents didn’t hold such beliefs and raised them accordingly to progressive beliefs, that upbringing opened her eyes to damning effects of discrimination which lay outside, challenged, she fought hard to fix Sterotypes.

“I was born into a Botswana where there was no tar road, no telephone. I think I saw my first refrigerator when I was a teenager, “I grew up in a Botswana where you had to hold water on your head and hold firewood as well.” Dow recalls.

As a child, she was inquisitive and loved reading, which would prove instrumental to her future. resources. Around 1967, diamonds were discovered in Botswana, the economy received a major boost, opening great opportunities, Unity applied for Law studies, despite initial objections of her family, she decided to pursue a career in law following advice from one of her teachers, she proceeded to the University of Botswana, completing her Law degree and later the University of Edinburgh, Scotland to further her education.

She launched her legal career working as a lawyer in a human rights organization in little Mochudi her home village.

In 1991, she co-founded the private Baobab Primary School in Gaborone, one of the best schools till date.

She is also one of the founders of the first AIDS-specific NGO in Botswana “AIDS ACTION TRUST.”

Unity Dow is blessed with three children and resides in Mochudi, South East Botswana.

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