United Nations recognizing the equality effect

A Canadian organization using human rights law to improve the lives of women and girls in Africa and around the world

The Pro Bono Cause


The equality effect is a Canadian-based charitable organization that uses human rights law to improve the lives of women and girls in Africa and around the world by initiating innovative legal and constitutional challenges as well as undertaking grassroots education, law reform, test case litigation and outreach. The primary focus of its work relates to eliminating violence against women and girls and the feminization of HIV/AIDS, as well as supporting women’s rights by fighting for their property rights and economic participation in society.

In 2012, the equality effect, in partnership with the Tumaini Girls’ Rescue Centre at Ripples International in Meru, Kenya, launched a constitutional challenge on behalf of 160 girl victims, to help protect women and girls in Kenya from rape, which resulted in a historic legal victory and landmark ruling. The 2013 win provided “access to justice for the 160 Girls that inspired the adoption of the case.” Since then, the equality effect continues to work on a number of initiatives under the 160 Girls project, including the recent launch of a school-based pilot program called the Justice Clubs in Meru, which works to raise awareness about rape and girls’ and women’s rights, as well as training local police forces in Kenya on how to investigate, collect evidence and charge assailants in defilement investigations.

In June 2017, the 160 Girls Project was profiled as one of seven initiatives included in a compendium of international best practices advancing women’s equality and empowerment that the Working Group on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women developed under mandate from the United Nations.

A ceremony was held at the U.N. Human Rights Council on June 8 and 9, 2017, in Geneva, wherein the inaugural report was presented recognizing the equality effect for its work on the 160 Girls project relating to women’s health and safety, and “mobilizing the law for social change.”

The Osler Pro Bono Connection

Osler is a sponsor of the equality effect and May Cheng, an Osler IP partner, has supported the not-for-profit organization through pro bono and volunteer work since its inception. A trademark lawyer, May has helped the equality effect in securing rights in its name, by registering "the equality effect" as a trademark, and obtain its charitable status. She is also a member of the equality effect’s fundraising committee. She has spearheaded many fundraising efforts to support the charitable organization, including its first fundraiser, which raised more than $140,000 in the kick-off event to launch the constitutional case.

Osler donated leather-bound notebooks and pens to local police who are being trained in Kenya by volunteer Canadian police officers and lawyers from Canada and Kenya. The firm also hosted a father-daughter breakfast in support of the cause on May 15, 2017. Most recently, Osler baseball caps were given to all of the graduates of the 160 Girls police training teams, including the trainers, who posed together for the below photo in Nairobi.

Volunteer Reflections

“Fiona Sampson, the CEO of the equality effect and an international human rights lawyer, is a force of nature and a source of inspiration for women’s rights activists around the world. What the equality effect has achieved is nothing short of remarkable from a legal perspective, and the Kenyan and Canadian lawyers who volunteer for the cause are a great example of how partnerships across the globe can advance women’s and girls’ rights utilizing domestic law and international human rights law. I am proud to have been the first donor to this incredibly worthy cause and to get to continue to have a small role to play in this ground-breaking organization." May Cheng

May Cheng

May Cheng: Intellectual Property Partner