Fiona Sampson

Ashoka Fellow
Toronto, Canada
Fellow Since 2013


This profile was prepared when Fiona Sampson was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Fiona is pioneering a new way to hold governments accountable for human rights violations against women by ensuring that women in countries with similar judicial structures based in common law have access to legal resources, support, and remedies that have otherwise been inaccessible due to economics, culture, and violations of gender rights.

Through her organization, Equality Effect (EE), Fiona is convening a network of social workers, activists, lawyers and academics across Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, the United Kingdom, and Canada. With this network, Fiona is sourcing a new way for lawyers to address incidents of sexual assault against women around the world. Putting an end to the inaction of current systems that fail to protect the rights of women, Fiona is creating the foundation for in-country legal remedies which ensure that laws are enforced without delay or discrimination.

Now Fiona is formulating a system of knowledge exchange and best practices, aimed at internationally unified legal reform. Through her robust network of predominately women advocates, lawyers and academics, Fiona is building the legal foundations and support systems needed to provide victims of gender-based violence, rape, and defilement access to justice within their home countries. She is ensuring that all women’s rights are upheld and all laws designed for protection are enforced.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person


The Equality Effect uses international human rights law as a crowbar to pry open justice for women and girls around the world.  Drawing on a team of feisty international lawyers, The Equality Effect supports its regional legal partners to make women’s/girls’ rights real. This goal is achieved by conducting legal research, collecting evidence, and developing test case litigation.  In Kenya, the equality effect was responsible for a constitutional claim against the government for failing to protect girls who had been raped (the claimants, all victims of rape between 3-17 years of age, are known collectively as the “160 Girls”). In May 2013, Kenya’s High Court agreed that the police failure to enforce existing rape laws, and police failure to protect girls from rape, is a violation of domestic, regional, and human rights law. The equality effect is now working to secure the implementation of the High Court’s “160 Girls” decision. In an unprecedented partnership, the Equality Effect is working with police, communities and using the law, to hold perpetrators accountable for their violence, and end the climate of impunity for rape. The work that led to the landmark “160 Girls” ruling will inform Equality Effect’s newest project in Malawi that also seeks justice for victims of rape.  As three-time Amnesty International award-winner and author Sally Armstrong writes: “Once, in a very long while, maybe once in a lifetime, you get to witness a story that shifts the way an entire country or continent sees itself. The process of change is usually daring, certainly time-consuming, invariably costly, occasionally heart-breaking, and eventually an exercise so rewarding that it is the stuff of legends; this is the story of the Equality Effect.”
For more information visit or get the 160 Girls smartphone app


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