08 March 2021

Empowering Women. Learn about Hogan Lovells' Empowering Women and Girls initiative


Hogan Lovells launched its Empowering Women and Girls initiative

Lila Ji is from Tilonia, a small, rural village in Rajasthan, one of the poorest states in India. She’s illiterate. She’s also trained as a solar power engineer at Barefoot College. Women from rural communities around the world with no access to mains electricity travel to Tilonia to learn to install, maintain and repair solar panels in their villages. Sustainability is a key priority for Barefoot. So is empowerment.  

In 2015 Hogan Lovells launched its Empowering Women and Girls initiative. We had already aligned our citizenship strategy to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So it made sense to focus on the staggering gender inequalities around the world.  

To understand why we engage with Barefoot College is really to get to grips with the issue of gender equality.  

With Hogan Lovells’ support Barefoot has trained 474 solar mamas from 35 developing countries, bringing power and light to more than 230,000 people. Our pro bono legal advice has helped Barefoot open new solar training centres in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Senegal and Fiji. We’ve also raised over half million US Dollars globally to support the charity, and raised awareness among school children in 16 countries and more widely through an award-winning documentary film, Flip the Switch, which we financed.  

The issue of acting on gender equality goes well beyond signature empowerment projects and also tackles gender discrimination

The Clann Project was set up to help victims of Mother and Baby Homes in Ireland where unmarried, pregnant women were sent. Hundreds of the babies subsequently died and were buried in unmarked graves.  Others were forcibly taken from their mothers. Survivors and relatives of those who died have been hampered in trying to find out what has happened as adopted people in Ireland still have no statutory right to their birth certificates or their adoption or early life files, and there is no independent system to help them get access to their records.  

In 2015 the Irish Government set up a Commission of Enquiry to investigate these atrocities.  

Hogan Lovells supported the Adoption Rights Alliance and Justice for Magdalenes Research to publish a report which was submitted to the Commission in October 2018. We interviewed survivors and their relatives, preparing a report drawing on 77 witness statements, 164 conversations, and making 8 recommendations to the Commission. In January this year, the Irish Taoiseach issued an apology in response to survivors recognising the that the system which allowed the “profound and generational wrong” arose because of inherent discriminatory attitudes towards women: “We embraced a perverse religious morality and control, judgementalism and moral certainty, but shunned our daughters.”

Empowering Women and Girls initiativeIrish Parliament


Every year around 11,000 adult and child victims of domestic abuse, modern slavery and mental health problems are helped by Hestia. Our relationship started as corporate philanthropy, but has grown into a more strategic partnership with training to caseworkers on domestic violence injunctions, criminal injuries compensation claims and police complaints. But this is a shared value partnership so Hestia has helped Hogan Lovells improve our response to tackling domestic abuse and introduce HR guidance on domestic abuse.  

We are now working Hestia’s, UK Says No More campaign to propose improvements to the Domestic Abuse Bill. We want to ensure that adults and children would not be penalised for being victims, that they retain access to health and education, are supported in the workplace.  

Action on gender equality is unfinished business: none of the issues covered here have come to a conclusion and we will continue to support our partners.  

The Clann report for the Mother and Baby Homes Commission made a significant impact on the public debate. However, the  lack of a commitment to transparency may have resulted in the destruction of testimony from the 550 witnesses who gave evidence. Worse still, some of the survivors who have seen the summary of their own evidence say there they are substantial inaccuracies. So we want to help Clann hold the Irish Government to account over the pledges on transparency of archived records it made in the State apologies. 

The Domestic Abuse bill is still in the committee stage, despite having cross party support. However the proposals we worked on with Hestia are being discussed in Parliament and we remain optimistic that they will influence the final bill.  

The shadow of Covid hangs over everything we do these days, and no discussion about empowering women and girls would be complete without considering the impact it has had on gender equality. PwC estimates that progress for women towards equality in work will fall for the first time in a decade in the period 2019 to 2021. Progress towards gender equality will have to be twice as fast as it has been to date in order to make up the losses made during the pandemic. Responding to the consequences of such a major shift will dominate a great deal of the work we do for a long time to come.  

As for Lila Ji, with over 20 years of experience now under her belt as a solar engineer she’s now become a master trainer and, despite having almost no formal education herself, she’s been able to ensure all her children have had a proper education and importantly, continues to work as an engineer.  

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