The Vrouwenrechtswinkel Amsterdam is an organisation with a mission: to fight gender inequality. Women can go there for free legal advice from law students and lawyers. For their contribution to society, the Vrouwenrechtswinkel won the Access to Justice Award in 2022. Third-year student Blenda Gomes Rocha sees her work as a legal adviser as an opportunity to make some contribution to society.
How did you come to work at the Women's Law Centre?
'I was already having regular discussions about women's rights in my environment, because even people of my generation don't always realise that inequality still exists. For example, when something goes wrong in traffic, I hear that it is "probably because of a woman". I want to contribute to the realisation that those ideas are outdated and wrong.'
In what way do you contribute to this as a consultant?
'Prejudices about women also touch the law. A self-employed woman, for example, was told that she would probably have less time on her hands soon because of her pregnancy and that she therefore did not need to come to work. Of course, that is not possible. I want to make sure women are aware of their rights.'
“It strikes me how many women are financially dependent on their husbands.”
Blenda Gomes RochaLegal adviser 'Vrouwenrechtswinkel'
Who come to you with legal questions?
'My own preconception was that it would have something to do with education level or religion, but here women from all walks of life come by. It strikes me how many women are financially dependent on their husbands. They don't work themselves or work part-time and the house and bank account, for example, are in their husband's name. Sometimes they don't even have access to their own DigiD to arrange things.'
What kind of questions do you get?
'I have had many divorce cases. The most common question then is: what are my rights if I decide to leave my partner? Women are often frightened by their husbands and think they will be out on the street. It is about rights around housing, children and maintenance. I also regularly speak to Brazilian women who are married to a Dutchman and want to know if they can stay in the Netherlands if they break up. Because of all the misery I have seen, I have become a bit tougher myself. For example, I would never marry in community of property.'
Those are pretty tough cases. How do you prepare for them?
'You can work as a consultant here from your second year of study, so by then you already have quite a bit of legal knowledge. We also get a course once a month from experienced lawyers on, for instance, Labour Law or Immigration Law. But we also follow a course on your role as a discussion leader, which helps you to engage better with clients. The advice we give is always reviewed by a real lawyer.'
“It makes me proud that I can really help someone.”
Blenda Gomes RochaLegal Adviser Vrouwenrechtswinkel
Would you recommend other students to become advisers?
'Absolutely, it is very useful. In my studies, I sometimes miss the practice, and you're really in the middle of that here. My clients have complicated stories. What do you do with that as a lawyer? The work also motivates me to continue studying, because you see why law is so important. It makes me proud that I can really help someone and you also get 3 credits for it.'
Are you interested in working as a consultant or want more information? Take a look at the Vrouwenrechtswinkel website.
Foundation with a mission
There is still a lot of inequality between men and women, while every human being needs equal opportunities to achieve equal rights. That is why a place has been created where all women feel welcome and heard. You can go there with legal questions and for free tailor-made legal advice. Founded in September 2021 by the Amsterdam Law Hub of the UvA, Bureau Clara Wichmann and the municipality of Amsterdam, the Vrouwenrechtswinkel Amsterdam is the first women's legal advice centre in the capital.