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Unisa students share their journeys – Amanda Hulley

Amanda Hulley

As Women’s Month draws to a close, qualified lawyer and current Unisa student, Amanda Hulley, has been reflecting on the struggles faced by women in South Africa.

Amanda says she feels that, in the legal fraternity, women remain disadvantaged when compared to their male counterparts. The empowerment of women in the legal world, she says, needs to be enhanced as such empowerment is essential for the development of society. She believes that women can be empowered by being exposed to more legal work in the structures in which they are employed. They should also be strong, aware of their strength, and take the time to focus on their goals. Empowerment, she believes, means that you don’t crumble under failure. Rather, when you’re under pressure, you need to make a conscious choice to grow and to evolve to the next level.

Amanda has been an attorney since 2006 and is currently employed as a High Court Unit Legal Practitioner by Legal Aid South Africa Legal Aid in Pietermaritzburg. She chose to study law through the University of KwaZulu-Natal because she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them with legal issues. Having been brought up in a multi-racial home in a small town called Verulam, she came to realise that many people do not know their rights – and how easily people’s rights can be violated when they are unaware of the law. Working in the legal profession has allowed her to meet people from all walks of life and, working in both civil and criminal law, to assist many of them. She still derives much excitement from seeing justice done and from having clients who are happy that she has been able to help them during the most difficult times of their lives.

Amanda believes that lawyers play a vital role in the preservation of society. A lawyer, she feels, is a representative of her clients, an officer of the legal system and also a public citizen who has a special responsibility for the quality of justice. A lawyer must be ethical, competent, diligent and professional, she adds.

In 2017, Amanda decided to study again, choosing a BA in Forensic Science and Technology through Unisa. She chose this course because learning is a never-ending journey and she wanted to broaden her knowledge within the legal field. She chose Unisa as because she was a full-time mother holding down a permanent job. Unisa proved perfect as it offered open, distance and eLearning (ODEL). Unisa has taught her discipline, self-reliance and that she needs to have time management skills in place. Time management proved essential when it came to handing assignments in on time and to ensuring that she was ready for her exams. Thus, she was able to complete her degree and found it very interesting indeed. The course was broad in its outlook, as it not only focused on criminal matters but also looked at departmental investigations. She learned to look at evidence with scientific principles in mind and this has assisted her in cases when she has needed to cross-examine forensic experts in court.

Amanda emphasises that, while the country has been celebrating Women’s Month, this has also been a month to focus on gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality and while both men and women experience it, the majority of victims are women and girls. Gender-based violence has become a global pandemic and the source of devastating human rights violations in our world. It has also crippled South Africa. There are enormous numbers of cases that go unreported due to impunity, silence, stigma and shame, All of which swirl around the matter. Gender-based violence can take the form of physical, psychological or sexual attacks and Amanda believes that all this can stop if society stands together. We need, she feels, to give victims a sense that they are not alone, and that they can act. We do not have to tolerate violence against women and girls and we should take a stand together and speak out against violence against women. We also need to challenge myths such as, “she must have done something to deserve it,” or “she should not be dressed in that way”. There is also a need to get the message out that real men do not abuse women.

Aside from her work, Amanda comes home daily to her partner Simon, whom she describes as her pillar of strength, and her ten-year-old son, Antonio. Having a child of her own brings home to her how, being in the legal field, she has seen the ways in which children are affected by domestic violence. The saddest part is that children in violent homes may learn that violence is a legitimate way to solve problems. Although it is not inevitable, many such children grow up mimicking the behaviour of their parents. In Amanda’s home, though, she and her partner treat each other as equals. They also communicate with Antonio positively and openly about what is happening in the world and have taught him that males and females are equals as well as that he needs to respect everyone.

Amanda still has plans to study further. She quotes Henry Ford, who once said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young”.

* By Sakhile Mtshali, Communication and Marketing Officer, Unisa KZN Region

Publish date: 2020/08/28