Yasmeen Hassan, Global Executive Director, celebrates Judith Bruce as part of Equality Now’s 30 for 30, featuring 30 women and changemakers who have played a key role in making equality reality as part of our 30th anniversary celebrations.
I first met Judith when I joined Equality Now in 2008. She was, and remains, the chair of our Adolescent Girls Legal Defense Fund (AGLDF) Advisory Board, which was in the process of being launched that year.
I have to admit, I was a bit intimidated by Judith. Even in a room full of many brilliant, accomplished, passionate women, her remarkable intellect stood out. It was always Judith who sought to get to the heart of the matter.
“What are we investing in girls themselves?” she would ask, prompting us all to take a step back and more critically evaluate an idea or a strategy.
Judith is a fearless and ferocious advocate for girls’ rights. Through her contributions to policy analysis, evidence-based intervention design, advocacy, and capacity building, she has changed the way the world thinks about girls; centering their perspective and driving focus on the potential of the poorest, most excluded girls from around the world.
Judith was among the first to illuminate the scope and negative impact of child marriage on the global stage It was Judith who insisted that the term “early marriage” should be replaced with the now widely adopted term “child marriage,” arguing that “early marriage” conceals the fact that child marriage is arguably the most regularly occurring and serious human rights abuse.
During my time at Equality Now, I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Judith on countless occasions. Together, we worked closely to design all strategic litigation cases under the AGLDF to focus on girls with experiences that would help to inform change within a country’s legal system. These cases, like the issues facing girls themselves, spanned the globe. Together, we tackled child marriage in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, sex tourism in Brazil, and female genital mutilation (FGM) in Burkina Faso, Egypt, and Kenya. We brought cases forward to address sex trafficking in Malawi and the United States, bans on pregnant school girls in Sierra Leone and Tanzania; incest in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Pakistan, kidnapping, rape, and forced marriage in Ethiopia, and gang rape in Kenya.
The work we do everyday at Equality Now is built upon helping as many women and girls as possible. We generate action and outreach over the larger implications of a specific case or injustice, and we celebrate every step toward progress as a victory for all women and girls, be it in a country, a region, or the world.
Personally, my work with Judith has challenged me to think about the work we do in other ways. She has taught me not just to think about the law as a lawyer, or the head of a global women’s rights organization, but to temporarily cast these perspectives aside and to consider what the law or a legal system looks like through the most vulnerable perspective we have in our world: the eyes of a girl.