Scholar using the law as a tool for social change

In partnership with London law firm Leigh Day, we have been offering LLB law scholarships to promising students at the University of the Western Cape since 2001. In 2016 this scholarship was extended to the University of Fort Hare, the alma mater of countless African leaders and veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle.

As we open for applications for our 2017 law scholarships, we spoke to Khensani Motileni (LLB Law, University of Fort Hare) about her time as a Leigh Day scholar, what makes her a proud Fort Harian, and why she has chosen to pursue a career in public interest law with our partners at the Legal Resources Centre.


What attracted you to a career in Law? Why did you choose to study at the University of Fort Hare?

I had initially planned to study Radio Therapy but after my mother suggested that I pursue a line of study that was more compatible with my strong personality and talkative nature, I chose to pursue an LLB Law at the University of Fort Hare. Enrolling at Fort Hare provided me with a chance to gain independence and insight and follow in the footsteps of the many iconic and influential African leaders who have studied there in the past.

I used my time at Fort Hare as an opportunity to acknowledge and learn about our nation’s unique history. Coming from an Afrikaans schooling background, moving into a “previously disadvantaged university” was an eye-opener. I began my degree with limited knowledge of the past but have developed a deep understanding of the importance of black consciousness in higher education.

I am a proud Fort Harian and happy to be part of a university community that is not viewed as “elite” but as a university that is developing into greatness. I find gratification in knowing that I am contributing to the development and growth of this great institution.

Law has become my passion and it is through a career in the legal profession that I will be able to contribute to the greater good of society as well as use my education to tackle social deprivation and to promote equality and transformation through sustainable innovative solutions.


How has your Canon Collins/Leigh Day scholarship impacted your time as an LLB student?

Beyond the obvious financial relief, the opportunity to network with various Canon Collins partner organisations, alumni and fellow scholars has been extremely beneficial. Through these networks, I have been exposed to insightful views on different schools of thought, expanded my understanding of key concepts regarding human rights and come to appreciate that, in order to make an impact, law cannot be studied in isolation.


You will soon be starting a position as candidate attorney at the Legal Resources Centre, South Africa’s largest public interest law firm. Why this field of law?

Since beginning my legal studies, I have been determined to work for an organisation that is committed to human rights and transformation in the legal profession. The LRC is a giant in the field of public interest litigation and issues of social justice; working for them is the best platform to enable me to support the socio-economic rights of some of South Africa’s most marginalized persons and communities.


Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

In terms of further studies, I will have obtained an LLM in Human Rights and Democratization as well as an MBA. I plan to continue working in public interest law and becoming a game-changer in the field, as well as the author of a book on customary law and myths.

Additionally, I hope to become a successful social entrepreneur, and to continue various work to advance children’s rights, particularly the girl child. I am already working towards this goal through my organisation ‘The Red Robot Foundation’, which seeks to improve school attendance by providing sanitary products and information on feminine hygiene to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I’m a strong believer that what we do for ourselves dies with us but what we do for others, and the world, lives on forever.