CALS uses a combination of theory and practice to advance human rights. We use three tools, namely research (both field research and desktop research); advocacy (including training, engaging with the media, providing legal services to clients, making submissions to parliament, and negotiating with government and corporations) and strategic litigation.
CALS adopts an intersectional approach to rights protection, understanding that human rights are rarely violated in isolation. The intersectionality of CALS’ five Programmes allows us to address rights violations holistically, responding to the multidimensional nature of human rights violations that are not easily categorised or insulated. For example, the violation of an environmental right usually entails a threat to basic services such as water, housing and sanitation. This threat in turn usually manifests differently for women and men, requiring an understanding of the gendered nature of the violation. A lack of basic services often triggers the need to protest, which is regularly criminalised, resulting in the arrest and detention of people living in poverty. It is this comprehensive and holistic approach that CALS adopts.
All of our work is infused with a gendered analysis. This approach allows us to examine silenced violations that often remain undetected because of assumptions of homogeneity of experiences.
In order to be effective, our lawyering must be creative. This allows us to go beyond the traditional notions of lawyering within court cases to include mediation, client empowerment and political settlements. This approach also allows us to explore other disciplines to inform our work and make us better human rights lawyers. Examples of this multidisciplinary approach include film; social work (as a method of understanding the psycho-‐social drivers of trauma experienced by many of our clients) and economics (to understand the political economy within which human rights violations occur). Read more about our law and film tool here.
Conscious of the transformation agenda
CALS’ staff members include an exceptional collection of lawyers, support staff and researchers. We pursue an environment of professional satisfaction, where colleagues work in a manner that has integrity and purpose. Colleagues undertake to engage each other with collegiality and dignity, where independent thought is applauded and the pursuit of our common vision determines our actions.
CALS’ commitment to transformation in society must be matched by internal transformation. CALS’ workspace is one that prioritises development of marginalised and disadvantaged persons and the intentional deconstruction of barriers that continue to disadvantage black women in particular. We have formal and informal spaces to discuss transformation, black consciousness, white privilege and cultural oppression and silencing in the workplace. We use all mechanisms within the University recruitment policies to attract, maintain and advance black female colleagues. Our staffing plan for 2016 works towards the actualisation of a transformed staff component.
The projects in each programme seek to build upon previous work, so we continuously build on our existing work to achieve our mission, rather than branching off into a number of splintered and disparate areas. This allows us to take a long-term approach to social justice work, while focusing on incremental stages involved in the longer-term achievement of our vision.