On Tuesday 25 June, TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global legal pro bono service, was awarded the “Best Collaborative Initiative” at the 2019 Lawyer Awards.
In 2018, 28 Too Many, a small UK charity working on the elimination of FGM/C, was connected through TrustLaw to more than 120 lawyers who produced legal research on FGM law across 30 countries.
Coordinated by Latham & Watkins’ UK office, pro bono lawyers from Shearman & Sterling, Cleary Gottlieb, Reed Smith LLP, as well as domestic firms Omer Abdelati Law Firm, Sharkawy & Sarhan Law Firm and Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie, worked tirelessly to produce ground-breaking country reports. These reports highlight examples of best practice, lessons learnt, and recommendations for forming sound legal frameworks that will contribute to the global elimination of FGM/C.
“We were dealing mostly with English, French, and Arabic speaking jurisdictions, so we had to match up lawyers with the relevant language skills to work with local counsel and also to be able to review the underlying base materials in order to verify the information,” said J. P. Sweny, Counsel at Latham and Watkins.
Despite a recent release, these ground-breaking legal reports are already having an impact. 28 Too Many has been working closely with UK law enforcement to support officers who work with African diaspora communities, using the legal research to help them understand the history of FGM and the legal situation in the victims’ country of origin. In Kenya, the country report is helping local and international FGM activists in a court case against Kenyan Dr. Tatu Kamau, a medical professional who filed a controversial petition to legalise FGM. In Egypt, it’s been used in conversation with parliamentarians, and in Geneva, 28 Too Many presented their findings to the Human Rights Council.
The Lawyer Awards judges said: “Bringing together multiple law firms to work on a not for profit engagement is a fantastic example of collaboration - an extremely ambitious project where profit was not the goal.”
Lauren Meyer, Head of Legal at TrustLaw and coordinator of this project, said: “There is no other research that analyses the legalities of FGM so comprehensively and to this extent. The law is now accessible and a powerful tool for those who need it the most. This award acknowledged the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s role as connector, facilitator and storyteller.”