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Former CALS Director to be knighted

- Lindsay Henson - Lawyers against Abuse

Prof Bonita Meyersfeld will be appointed a Knight of the National Order of Merit by France for her work on gender-based violence on 19 March 2019

Prof Meyersfeld is a former Director of CALS and currently sits on our board of advisors. She is also the founder and chair of the board of Lawyers against Abuse, who released this message today:

Lawyers against Abuse is proud and delighted to announce that on 19 March 2019, our founder and chair of our board, Prof. Bonita Meyersfeld, will be appointed a Knight of the National Order of Merit by France for her work addressing gender-based violence.

This honour is awarded by the President of the French Republic to French citizens and foreign nationals for distinguished achievements such as “acts of devotion, bravery, generosity, real merit or a measurable commitment to serving others”. The award will be bestowed upon Prof. Meyersfeld by the Ambassador of France to South Africa, His Excellency Christophe Farnaud, at the French Residence in Pretoria in recognition of over 20 years of work addressing gender-based violence in South Africa.

In particular, the appointment recognises Prof. Meyersfeld’s role in conceptualising and establishing Lawyers against Abuse (LvA), a nonprofit organisation based in the informal settlement of Diepsloot, South Africa. Founded in 2011, LvA provides a cutting edge and unique service to victims of gender-based violence, integrating legal and pyschosocial services to ensure that we travel the journey to justice and recovery with our clients. At the same time, LvA works in close partnership with state actors to address systemic gaps and challenges to strengthen the overall response of the justice system.

To date, LvA has provided legal and psychological support to over 850 victims, including assisting 528 clients with protection orders, supporting 163 clients pursuing criminal cases, and providing over 1,000 therapy sessions to 286 clients. A mere fortnight before the award, LvA’s work resulted in a life sentence for a perpetrator of rape and sexual violence in Diepsloot.

LvA’s Executive Director, Lindsay Henson, has seen the organisation flourish in the four years of her directorship and believes that LvA is at the point where the model can and should be replicated in other communities in South Africa. According to Henson, “LvA’s model works. We see meaningful, long-term and successful support to hundreds of women and children resulting in a level of access to justice that is unprecedented. It is this model that Meyersfeld initiated, together with a remarkable team of founding members. We are thrilled about the recognition by the French President.”

According to Meyersfeld, “the Chevalier is testimony to the thousands of heroes who survive gender-based violence; to the powerful women who founded LvA; and to the women in our Centre who work every day to make LvA the sanctuary and place of justice it is today.”

Unfortunately, the award ceremony is closed to media. However, Meyersfeld and Henson are available for interviews and event photos can be supplied upon request.

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