Cornell University

International Programs

117 Ives Hall, 607-254-7255

Join us for the South African Gender and Justice documentary created by ILR Alumna Ruth Cowan

October 22, 105 Ives Hall

Courting Justice: South Africa's Transformation to Democracy as Told by 6 Women Judges

Film and Q&A with executive producer Ruth Cowan, ILR Alumna 

Date: October 22, 2008
Time: 4:30 to 6:00 pm, Reception to follow
Place: 105 Ives Hall

The ILR School is welcoming back Ruth Cowan, BS ILR '53, to view her film "Courting Justice: South Africa's Transformation to Democracy as Told by 6 Women Judges."  The film documents the evolving role of the judiciary in South Africa's democracy from the perspective of six female judges. 

It chronicles the changes that have occurred with regard to race and gender since South Africa's change to a human-rights based constitution and the establishment of an independent judiciary to guard those rights.  The women judges discuss how slow the progress has been in achieving gender and racial justice by inclusion in the judicial institutions.  They include stories of this struggle while at home and in the communities where they lived during apartheid.  They detail how they have confronted the challenges of women working in a male institution, of mothers integrating work and family and of judges burdened with extraordinarily heavy case loads. 

It is a very personal story-- at the same time, however, it reveals the demands on the courts as they work to advance democracy and it contrasts the state of justice in South Africa then and now.  Following the showing Cowan will be discussing her production of the film and will be available to answer questions.  Cowan is an experienced scholar of the developing world and is a leader in fields such as microfinance, human rights, judicial development, and gender and race issues. 

Ruth CowanAfter graduating from the ILR School Cowan went on to a career as an academic extensively involved in human rights activism and engagement in developing countries.  These experiences propelled her interest in South Africa's transformation to a human-rights based constitutional democracy.  Her particular interest has been the judiciary’s engagement in this transformation, about which she has written for legal publications and spoken at bar associations and universities in the United States, Canada and South Africa.  

She worked with the South Africa affiliate of the International Association of Women Judges in an effort to advance the gender transformation of the judiciary.  She then convened a United States Congressional meeting at which South Africa's Constitutional Court Justices Yvonne Mokgoro and Kate O'Regan spoke about the impact of South Africa's Constitutional Court on gender equality.

As an advocate of women's rights, she co-chaired New York's statewide meeting preparatory to the first UN international conference on women and participated in the subsequent conferences.  Later she chaired the New York City Commission on the Status of Women during two mayoral administrations. 

Additionally, she is the Founding President of Pro Mujer, a microfinance organization working in five Latin American countries.  Moreover she serves on the board of directors for two separate social justice organizations:

  • The Global Partnership for Afghanistan, which partners with Cornell's International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development to advance agricultural redevelopment;
  • The Council of Women World Leaders, whose members are current and former women heads of state.
Learn more about Ruth Cowan on the International Programs site.

Sponsored by the ILR School and ILR International Programs
Co-sponsors: African Development, Cornell Law School, Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program, ILR Global Affairs Club

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