Women in International Law Network

The Olive Schill Society

by Siran Mahama

WILNET would like to welcome Siran Mahama to the team. Siran is an LLM student at the University of Manchester studying Security and International Law and she is also qualified as a barrister in Ghana. Her special interests in international law are reproductive rights of women and human rights in general. In this post, she shares with us her Jessup experience.

It all began in November of 2016, in one of my classes on Sources of International Law, where an announcement was made that the University of Manchester School of Law was looking for students to represent the school at the 2017 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Competition. After successfully going through the internal competition, I was selected as the first Applicant for the University of Manchester School of Law Jessup team in the case concerning ‘the Sisters of the Sun’. In totality, we were a team of four female and two male LLM students. It was great to see women well represented on the team. From the onset of our preparation towards the competition, the entire group worked well together and we were determined to make our mark in what was the University’s re-entry into the competition after several years of not participating.

After barely two months of preparation, we headed to Gray’s Inn, London for the moot competition from February 24 – 26, 2017. To describe the competition as intense would be an understatement. After a short opening ceremony at 9am on February 24, 2017, the competition started immediately. As fate would have it, my team was one of the first teams to take part in the first round at 9:30 am. In order to preserve the integrity of the competition, there was a rule of anonymity, whereby school teams were identified only by numbers. Therefore, we did not know the identities of opposing teams. However, from my observation, there were a decent number of female participants across the board. At that point, it was a bitter-sweet feeling of excitement and nervousness. In all four rounds of the competition that we participated in, the panel of judges were always two men and one woman. I cannot speak to the composition of judges for other groups but I was a little disappointed at the trend of having men in the majority of all the judging panels I encountered.

Unfortunately, our team did not make it to the quarter-finals, but individually, we had three oralists in the top 25 mooters out of about 80 participants, myself included. We also had the opportunity to watch the semi-final and the final rounds. In my personal opinion, the team that came second in the finals put on a much better performance than the winning team. This may have been purely coincidental, but the winning team happened to be an all male team. The second team had two females and one male.

All in all, I can say that it was a great experience for me since it greatly increased my interest in international law and gave me a deeper understanding in the area of law. I am very grateful the University of Manchester School of Law for the opportunity.