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. Her Western education caused a mixture of respect and suspicion.
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. Tradition, and prior precedent, stated nationality only descended from the father. She later became Botswana’s first female High Court judge.
As a novelist she has 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.
Dow was one of three judges who recently (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.
Dow has been a visiting professor at the School of Law, Columbia University, New York, during the fall semester 2009.
After retiring from the High Court Botswana in 2009, after 11 years of service, she opened the Legal Firm “Dow & Associates” in Botswana on 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 10-12, 2011 in New York mentioned Unity Dow as one of 150 women who shake the world (http://www.thedailybeast.com/interactive/women-in-the-world/150-women-who-shake-the-world/)