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In her home country of Tanzania, corporate lawyer Mwanaidi Sinare Maajar says 95 percent of women lawyers are fiercely politically active. “When the women lawyers talk, the government listens,” she said. Maajar was in the San Francisco Bay Area a few weeks ago along with 14 other visiting African women lawyers, judges and magistrates wrapping up a 21-day U.S. tour. In Dar es Salaam, the commercial center and capital of Tanzania, Maajar works on women’s issues in her spare time. She is a founding partner of Maajar, Rwechungura, Kameja & Nguluma, whose major clients include EcoLab, El Paso Energy, the International Monetary Fund and Citibank. She is also a member of the Tanzania Women’s Lawyers Association, which successfully lobbied the country’s government last year to add sex discrimination provisions to its constitution. Beth Parker, a corporate litigator and Equal Rights Advocates board member who met briefly with the group at the International Diplomacy Council’s downtown office, called the number of United States women lawyers who are politically involved “tiny” by comparison. “Judging by my own experience, it’s because of the huge pressure on people to bill hours,” said Parker, who is a partner at McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. The African legal professionals were touring the country to learn more about how their American counterparts have used the law to improve the lives of women. Noticeably absent from the meeting was a critical mass of San Francisco Bay Area lawyers. “I was one of the few lawyers here and there were no judges,” said Ann Fagan Ginger, founder of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute in Berkeley, Calif. “I think it was a missed opportunity.” Organizers, which included the IDC and the Women’s Intercultural Network, said the group had been booked to meet with a smattering of Bay Area activist groups, and that short notice of their visit gave them little space for publicity. The group arrived in San Francisco after a whirlwind tour that brought them through Washington, D.C., Minnesota, Arkansas and Oklahoma. They met with administrators at Hastings College of the Law, spoke with a class at San Francisco State University, and met with an array of nonprofit organizations focusing on women’s rights and community building. “We met women, we saw them work gratis, we’ve seen results,” said Maajar. “When I get back someone is going to benefit from this trip.” At the end of the meeting, during which all of the African women told the stories of the inequities they battle on a daily basis and extolled the legal wonders they’d witnessed during their tour, Ginger tempered the mood with a comment about the continued gender wage gap in the U.S. “For every 72 cents women earn men earn a dollar for the same work,” the American said. “Don’t feel that we’re that far ahead of you.”

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