Unity Dow

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Unity Dow
Unity Dow - PopTech 2011 - Camden Maine USA (cropped).jpg
Minister of Education
and Skill Development
Assumed office
31 October 2014
President Ian Khama
Specially Elected Member of Parliament
Assumed office
31 October 2014
Appointed by Ian Khama
Personal details
Born (1959-04-23) 23 April 1959 (age 56)
Nationality Motswana
Political party BDP
Alma mater UBS (LL.B)

Unity Dow (born 23 April 1959) is a judge, human rights activist, and writer from Botswana. She came from a rural background that tended toward traditional values of the African kind. Her mother could not read English, and in most cases decision-making was done by men.


She studied law at the University of Botswana and Swaziland (LLB 1983), which included 2 years spent studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.[1] Her Western education caused a mixture of respect and suspicion.[2]

1991 Unity Dow co-founded the private Baobab Primary School in Gaborone which remains one of the best primary schools in Botswana.

1991 Unity Dow co-founded the first AIDS-specific NGO in the country "AIDS ACTION TRUST"

As a lawyer she earned acclaim for her stances on women's rights. She was the plaintiff in a case that allowed the children of women by foreign nationals to be considered Batswana (Attorney General of Botswana v Unity Dow (1992)). Tradition, and prior precedent, stated nationality only descended from the father. She later became Botswana's first female High Court judge.[3]

As a novelist she has published until now five books. These books often deal with issues concerning the struggle between Western and traditional values. They also involve her interest in gender issues and her nation's poverty. May 2010 her latest book was published by Harvard Press 'Saturday is for Funerals' which describes the AIDS problem in Africa. Unity Dow also contributed to the book "Schicksal Afrika" (Destiny Africa) by the former German President Horst Koehler in 2009.

2005 Unity Dow has been a member of a UN mission to Sierra Leone to review domestic application of international women's human rights norms.

Unity Dow was one of three judges who (13 December 2006) decided the now internationally acclaimed Kgalagadi (San, Bushmen or Basarwa) court decision, concerning the rights of the San to return to their ancestral lands.

2007 Unity Dow has been a Member of Special mission at the invitation of the Rwandan Government and UN special court for Rwanda; purpose review of the Rwandan Judiciaries preparedness to take over the hearing of the 1994 genocide cases.

Dow has been a visiting professor of Law at the School of Law, Columbia University, New York, during the fall semester 2009, and further at Washington and Lee, Lexington USA, 2009, and University of Cincinnati, Ohio USA, 2009.

After retiring from the High Court Botswana in 2009, after 11 years of service, she opened the Legal Firm "Dow & Associates" in Botswana February 2010.

February 2010 Dow was sworn in as Justice of the IICDRC (Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court) of Kenya by the Kenyan President to serve implementing the new constitution in Kenya.

July 14, 2010, Dow was awarded the French Medal of the Légion d'honneur de France by representatives of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy for her human rights activities.

Women of the World Summit March 2011 and 2012 in New York mentioned Unity Dow as one of 150 women who shake the world [4]

Unity Dow served as Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists. She was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2009. In 2006 she was elected to the Executive Committee and re-elected in 2008. March 2011 she was elected the Chairperson of the Executive Committee succeeding Dr. Rajeev Dhavan, India, effective June 2011 to June 2012.

CNN presented Unity Dow in their weekly show African Voices 29.06.2012, as one of Africa's most engaging personalities.

July 6, 2012 Unity Dow was appointed by The United Nations Human Rights Council as one of three independent experts to conduct a fact-finding mission on how Israel's West Bank settlements affect Palestinians. A preliminary version of the report[5] published January 31, 2013 aroused much discussion.

2013 Unity Dow decided to go into politics and to serve her country with her extensive expertise in many fields.

October 28, 2014 Unity Dow was nominated by the President Ian Khama of Botswana as 'special elected member of parliament' and confirmed by the new 11th Parliament of Botswana. October 31, 2014 Unity Dow was appointed Assistant Minister of Education in the Government of Botswana, responsible for Higher / Tertiary Education and Skills Development. As of March 1, 2015 the President Ian Khama of Botswana appointed Unity Dow as Minister of Education and Skills Development in the Government of Botswana.

November 14, 2014, Unity Dow was finally successful in representing LEGABIBO, the Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals of Botswana in a trial versus the State of Botswana to register LEGABIBO as an organisation in Botswana. The State refused before the registration on arguments it would be unconstitutional.

Unity Dow received Awards and Honours (selected): Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio USA: Doctor of Laws: Honorary degree awarded May 19, 2001; Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey: The William Brennan Human Rights Award,April 14, 2003; The Vanguard Women Leadership Award: March 2004; St. Michael College, Vermont USA: Doctor of Laws: Honorary Degree awarded May 2007; The Phyllis N. Stern Distinguished Lectureship Award: July 11, 2008; The Prominent Woman in International Law Award: March 26, 2009 in Washington DC; University of Edinburgh: Doctor of Laws: Honorary Degree awarded July 30, 2009; French Medal of Honour (Légion d'honneur) July 2010;

Honours and awards[edit]



Honorary degrees[edit]


  • Far and Beyon' Longman Botswana, 2000, Spinifex, 2001
  • The Screaming of the Innocent, Spinifex 2002, Double Storey, 2003
  • Juggling Truths, Spinifex, 2003
  • The Heavens May Fall, Double Storey, 2006
  • Saturday is for Funerals, Harvard Press, 2010


  1. ^ "Honorary Degree - Justice Unity Dow". Celebrating 100 Years of Women in Law: An Edinburgh Centenary. Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh, School of Law. Retrieved 5 October 2010. 
  2. ^ "Radio 4 Woman's Hour -Unity Dow". BBC. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  3. ^ "Unity Dow". freddevries.co.za. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  4. ^ "150 women who shake the world". www.thedailybeast.com. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  5. ^ "FFMSettlements" (PDF). www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Through Their Eyes: Of Diamond Rings and Cows - Diamonds for Love and Cows are for?". University of South Australia. Retrieved 15 November 2014. 

External links[edit]