Carla Ferstman

Carla FerstmanCarla Ferstman joined REDRESS in 2001 as its Legal Director and became the Director in 2005. She was called to the Bar in British Columbia, Canada in 1994 and practiced there as a criminal law barrister. Also prior to joining REDRESS, she worked with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in post-genocide Rwanda, with Amnesty International’s International Secretariat as a legal researcher on trials in Central Africa and as Executive Legal Advisor to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Commission for Real Property Claims of Displaced Persons and Refugees (CRPC).

Please tell us about your best day at work?

My best day is work is when we get a big win for one of our clients. This can be a decision before a local or international court, or some sign of progress like the opening of an investigation that we have been pressing for. It can also be something more symbolic. I remember the day that I went with my two elderly Chilean clients with whom we had been working for more than a decade, to a formal ceremony at the Chilean Embassy in London. The Chilean Government issued a formal apology for the torture our client suffered and handed over the reparation that had been order by the Inter-American Court. We all had tears in our eyes.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for women looking to access justice, in the UK or the overseas jurisdictions in which you have worked?

Often, women’s grievances can be taken less seriously – by themselves, their families and the legal system. When they seek justice, they can be perceived as selfish, pursuing individual interests over some wider sense of harmony. This can have a huge impact on access to justice, as it impedes women from coming forward and asserting their rights in the first place.

Looking back on your career, how far do you think we have come towards gender parity in the legal profession?

Taking into account that in many countries there are more women than men entering law schools, I think we still have a far way to go. There are still many unwritten barriers for women with families associated with punishingly long hours and a lack of flexibility. This is changing, though not necessarily in all sectors of the legal profession.

Who, or what, inspires you most and why?

My grandmother – a single parent, hard-working, very hard life, but she told the best jokes.

What have you discovered during your career which you would have benefitted from knowing as a student?

It is important to keep your eyes open for opportunities which might arise even though they might not be on what you perceive as your pre-destined career path. There is no substitute for hard work and perseverance.

Join us on 19 March 2016 for our Annual Student Conference to hear Andrea Coomber, Director of JUSTICE, in conversation with Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty. Sign up now.

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