Faces of Africa 07/16/2017 The Unity Dow Story

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Unity Dow is the former high court judge of Botswana, human rights activist, writer and politician. She was born in 1959 in Botswana and was raised in a rural setting with traditional values of an African kind, in a patriarchal community.

“I was born into a Botswana where there was no tarmac road, no telephone, where you had to hold water on your head and firewood as well. I think I saw my first refrigerator when I was a teenager,” recalled Unity Dow – Former High Court judge of Botswana.

From a young age, Dow was an inquisitive child who loved to read. “She was very intelligent at school and enjoyed reading books. We used to fetch water a great distance and Unity carried a book to read each time,” recalled Unity’s father – Moses Phiri Diswai.

She excelled in school and was accorded a scholarship to study law at the University of Botswana and Swaziland in 1983. The scholarship included studying at the Edinburg University in Scotland for two years, which she did.

Unity Dow, former High Court Judge of Botswana.
Unity Dow, former High Court Judge of Botswana.

Going to abroad widened her views on many things. This would become evident later in years, when Dow would shake the legal standings of the government of Botswana on dual citizenship. Upon completing her studies, Dow became vigorously involved in women rights activities.

In 1992, she began what one would call the battle of the titans against the government of Botswana. She challenged the attorney general on the clause in their law that stated dual citizenship or Botswana nationality was only earned from the father. Dow became the plaintiff seeking to allow children of the Botswana women married to foreigners become Batswana.

Unity Dow with his husband and daughter.
Unity Dow with his husband and daughter.

She’s happily married to an American and has three children. Her desire to have her children recognized as Batswana, made her legal battle on the dual citizenship even more urgent.

“When she decided to take the government to court on this matter, I was concerned because I had heard that in other countries, people that took their government to court faced death and wondered whether my child would suffer the same fate,” told Unity’s mother – Ellen Diswai.

n 1992, Unity Dow challenged Botswana's government on the clause in their law that stated dual citizenship or Botswana nationality was only earned from the father.
In 1992, Unity Dow challenged Botswana’s government on the clause in their law that stated dual citizenship or Botswana nationality was only earned from the father.

After serving as a judge for eleven years, Unity moved into politics. She vied for the Member of Parliament seat in Mochudi District but lost. In October 2014, Ian Khama the President of Botswana appointed Unity as a special elected Member of Parliament. Four days later, she was appointed as the Assistant Minister of Education. She has also endeavoured in writing and has published five books which are getting broad readership both in Africa and abroad. Some of the famous ones are ‘Far and Beyond’, a 2001 release focusing on gender, HIV and AIDS and violence against women.

‘In the Screaming of the Innocence’, a justice based book released in 2002. Unity has stood her ground on the pertinent issues in her society and fought for what she believes in.  Her bold and persistent spirit has made her popular and raised the bars of her career.

Unity Dow as the chairperson of the International Commission of Jurists, ICJ.
Unity Dow as the chairperson of the International Commission of Jurists, ICJ.

She has excelled and ranked in the highest standings but she remains deeply connected to her roots. “I think I’m a nomad at heart, I’m just always moving. I need to be challenged, intellectually challenged. My legacy is to challenge myself,” told Unity Dow.