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Research consultant to draft a study on women’s leadership and participation in customary and informal justice systems

International Development Law Organization

Overview & Responsibilities

As highlighted in its Strategic Plan 2021-24, IDLO is committed to reducing the justice gap for women and girls, and explicitly recognizes both the need for women and girls to be centred in engagement with customary and informal justice (CIJ) systems and to promote women’s participation and leadership in the justice sector more broadly. In order to enhance IDLO’s policy leadership at this intersection, building on existing strategies and policies, research will be conducted on strengthening women’s leadership and participation in CIJ systems.

Women constitute the largest group of users of CIJ systems for diverse reasons: in rural and peri-urban areas, CIJ is often cheaper, quicker, accessible in local languages, and regarded as more culturally legitimate than statutory alternatives. Women rely on these systems for the resolution of everyday justice problems, including those related to family and other civil matters, access to land and natural resources, housing, and money or debt. However, many CIJ systems continue to perpetuate patriarchal values, reflect male-dominated structures, and produce discriminatory and harmful outcomes for women and girls.

Women are not only users, but also providers and administrators of justice in CIJ systems. There is an urgent need to ensure that women can claim customary and informal spaces of decision-making as part of achieving fairness, equality, and non-discrimination in justice administration. More equitable representation of women in CIJ systems can also contribute to improving the quality of justice outcomes for women. Women’s participation in CIJ administration can extend from decision-makers or adjudicators to women paralegals, gender experts or women’s organizations acting as advisors or experts on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Building on its extensive research on CIJ and specifically on women and CIJ, IDLO will develop a study that will take the analysis further and shift the perspective from looking at CIJ through the lens of women justice-seekers and users of these systems to exploring women’s representation in CIJ decision-making and the pathways that facilitate women’s meaningful participation in CIJ mechanisms. This perspective places the emphasis on women as agents of change in CIJ systems towards more peaceful and inclusive communities and societies.

The main aim of the paper is to understand the main structural factors and processes that advance or impede women’s meaningful participation within CIJ systems, and how women’s participation impacts the provision of CIJ services and access to justice–including to formal justice—more broadly. It will further aim to highlight how women’s participation in CIJ systems constitutes or leads to the empowerment of diverse women to resolve justice problems and generate detailed recommendations for policymakers and practitioners on women’s empowerment, gender equality and rule of law assistance. The study will support better, more innovative, and evidence-based policy and practice that strengthens women’s representation, participation, and empowerment in CIJ systems, contributing to improved access to justice for women and in general, consonant with targets in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially those associated with Sustainable Development Goals 5 and 16.

The main output of this research will be a research report (35-45 pages). It will establish a typology of women’s participation in CIJ systems and assess the different and varied roles that women in CIJ systems play and explore the main structural factors and processes that advance or impede women’s representation and participation in CIJ systems. It will present evidence-based recommendations for policymakers and practitioners, to strengthen women’s representation, participation, and empowerment in CIJ systems, in their various forms, ultimately contributing to improved access to justice for women and more broadly to women’s empowerment and gender equality, rule of law, stabilization, and peace and security.

It is within this framework that IDLO seeks to recruit a research consultant (hereafter, “the Contractor”) to develop a detailed study on women’s leadership and participation in CIJ systems. The Contractor will work under the supervision of IDLO’s Senior Legal Advisor on Gender.

The Contractor will produce a research study of generated via mixed methods including a literature review; a desk review of relevant public and internal IDLO sources; and consultation with external experts organized in an online expert group meeting, bringing together lead experts in the field of women’s rights and CIJ, women’s advocates and women’s organizations working with customary justice providers, as well as female customary justice leaders, if possible.

The Contractor will be responsible for undertaking the following:

  • Develop and submit an inception report presenting (1) the research methodology; (2) the research plan, indicating clear milestones and timelines; and (3) an outline of the paper
  • Conduct an academic literature review and desk review of internal IDLO sources and other relevant sources to inform the analytical framework
  • Based on the literature and desk review, propose a list of 3-4 examples or case studies to be included in the report (the examples or case studies can be country-specific or focused on a theme, such as advancing women’s land rights through CIJ systems, GBV and the role of CIJ, or others)
  • Implement a minimum of ten key informant interviews with personnel from selected IDLO field programmes, and experts from other organizations.
  • Facilitate an expert group meeting enabling external experts to provide inputs to guide the development of the report
  • Develop and submit a draft report (35-45 pages), including, in at least three countries, detailed analyses of country-specific evidence and insights
  • Develop and submit a final report, including recommendations for policy positions and programme interventions, for approval through standard IDLO processes

Job Requirements


  • Graduate degree in a relevant field of study (anthropology, development studies, gender studies, human rights, law, political science, public administration) or other relevant field from a recognized university is required; a PhD in a relevant field is an advantage

Work Experience

  • Minimum 10 years’ relevant research and / or professional experience in the areas of (1) access to justice via CIJ systems and (2) justice for women and girls
  • Outstanding track record conducting research and writing for diverse stakeholders, including high-level policy or academic publications

Specific Knowledge, Skills, and Competencies

  • Superior research skills, knowledge of both qualitative and quantitative methods, and sharp analytical capabilities
  • Strong technical drafting and editing skills in English, with rigorous attention to detail
  • Broad knowledge of and familiarity with the relevant policy frameworks, especially the 2030 Agenda, and the international legal framework on women’s rights
  • Proven ability to see through tasks set and deliver results
  • Proven ability to work under pressure with tight deadlines, flexibility, and an entrepreneurial spirit
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and experience working in a diverse, multi-cultural professional environment
  • Ability to work effectively across and within organizational boundaries
  • Established networks and contacts related to (1) access to justice via CIJ systems and / or (2) justice for women and girls; networks and contacts in both areas strongly preferred
  • Ability and willingness to travel, if necessary
  • Keen sense of ethics, integrity, and commitment to IDLO’s mandate


  • Fluency in written and spoken English is required; fluency in written and spoken French will be a distinct advantage

Terms & Conditions

The consultancy will be home-based, for a period of approximately 21 weeks, commencing in February 2023 and ending no later than June 2023. The total fixed lumpsum remuneration for the assignment will be €20 000. Payment will be made upon receipt by the Contractor of deliverables of high quality, and upon approval by the supervisor, as per the mutually agreed schedule.

Due to immediate need, applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and candidates are advised to apply as soon as possible but no later than 6 January 2022. Applications will be screened on a regular basis. In the interest of making the most effective use of resources, only short-listed candidates will be contacted during the selection process.

IDLO is an Equal Opportunity Employer and values diversity in all areas of its operations. We welcome and strongly encourage qualified female and diverse applicants to our positions.

Annual Compensation

EUR €20,000.00/Yr.

The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of the work being performed by the employee/consultant/intern assigned to this work. This may not be an exhaustive list of all duties and responsibilities. The Director-General of IDLO reserves the right to amend and change responsibilities or even to cancel the consultancy opportunity to meet business and organizational needs as necessary. All applications will be treated with the strictest confidentiality and in compliance with IDLO’s policy on personal data protection.

How to apply

Please make sure you apply to the following link:

Research consultant to draft a study on women’s leadership and participation in customary and informal justice systems (