Allanah Colley wins international essay competition

17 March 2016
Allanah Colley

A research paper into sexual exploitation allegations against United Nations’ peacekeepers has won talented Law student Allanah Colley first place in an international essay competition.

Allanah’s award-winning essay was originally written as her 2014 Honours Seminar Paper for the International Law Honours Seminar. “My research paper was titled ‘Boys will be boys’ or women as agents for change? How legal mechanisms can effectively hold United Nations peacekeeping personnel to account for committing sexual exploitation”, she says.

“At any given time there are over 90,000 United Nations peacekeepers stationed in various countries around the world, attempting to help states rebuild from conflict. Over the past twenty years, more and more allegations have emerged of UN peacekeepers committing sexual exploitation and abuse against local women and girls. There is repeated rhetoric that the UN has ‘zero tolerance’ for peacekeepers committing such acts, however, a culture of impunity continues to be pervasive within the Organisation and Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

My paper examined what the UN has done to date and why these measures are failing in light of this legal context. The paper then utilised international legal feminist theory as a means of unpacking the problem and suggesting alternative solutions. Both legal and other mechanisms were discussed as to how to end this culture of impunity, as well as support women on the ground to recover from their experiences.

Ultimately, the paper sought to adopt a women-centred approach, which placed women as agents of change rather than merely as victims. I chose to write it because it is an issue that has gained relatively little traction in international legal discourse, and yet is affecting thousands of women every day. I wanted to not only raise further awareness about the issue, but also to offer a different perspective about what could be done on the ground to help these women recover from their experiences and hold perpetrators accountable.”

After seeing a flyer for The Victoria Fisher Memorial Prize Competition, Allanah entered. It is run by the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom to stimulate interest in the relationship between Women and the Law.

“The Competition accepts essays on any topic related to Women and the Law, and from undergraduate and postgraduate students all around the world, so there is a very wide scope as to what they will accept,” says Allanah.    I have always been very proud of the paper I wrote but I never expected any academic or lawyer from the UK would be interested in reading it. The first thing I wanted to do was ring Treasa Dunworth, who had been my Honours supervisor and lecturer, to share the news as I knew she would be incredibly excited for me. Being passionate about women’s rights and how the law can help women has not always been a ‘cool’ area to be interested in, but Treasa has always made me feel as if my ideas and passion are worthwhile.”

As well as receiving a monetary prize, Allanah’s essay will be published in the Leicester Law Review.