Tshegofatso Phala – Executive Director
“Tshego” is an accomplished public interest lawyer with over 10 years’ experience in public interest litigation. Holding a Bachelor of Arts and LLB degree from the University of Witwatersrand, Tshego practised as an attorney in the Pro Bono Department at Webber Wentzel Attorneys between 2011 and 2016 and was appointed as a partner in 2017.
Keen to embed herself in movement lawyering, she joined the Initiative for Strategic Litigation in Africa (ISLA) in February 2019 leading their Sexual Rights Litigation in Africa. She is also a 2020/21 Fellow of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for young African leaders and is currently the Chairperson of the board of the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities in South Africa.
In the course of her practice, Tshego was part of a number of landmark cases that advanced the rule of law and constitutional democracy in South Africa, as well as the protection and advancement of the rights of LGBTQI persons (with particular focus on LGBTQI youth, transgender and intersex persons).
Tshego has a passion for human rights and the protection of vulnerable and marginalised persons and communities in society. She believes that movement-led lawyering and community lawyering can contribute positively to bringing about social change and the legal empowerment of marginalised voices.”
Robyn Beere – Deputy Director
Robyn was the Director of Inclusive Education South Africa (IESA) for eight and a half years. During her time with IESA she built up the organisation to become a leading civil society voice promoting the right to meaningful access to participation in learning for all children in South Africa. She has written extensively and developed a range of educational resources to be used in pre-service and in-service teaching training on inclusive pedagogy. Robyn has presented at numerous conferences and been invited to participate in regional expert meetings to discuss the protection of disability rights in an African context.
With an LLB and Hons Degree in Political Science, Robyn now works as an advocate for the effective implementation of inclusive education policy. She is also the Chairperson of the Right to Education for Children with Disabilities Alliance. Robyn led the development of an alternative report and submissions to the UN Committee on the CRPD and a delegation to the UN in March 2018. She has been instrumental in co-ordinating the Alliance efforts to ensure government accountability for the implementation of the Convention and other regional and national legislative and policy frameworks.
Chandre Stuurman – Supervising Attorney
Bertha Justice Alumna
Chandre obtained her BA (Law) degree from Stellenbosch University in 2009, and completed her post-graduate LLB degree in 2011 at the same university. In 2011, Chandre was a student researcher in the South African Property Law Research Chair headed by Professor AJ van der Walt, focusing on Constitutional Property Law, and in particular Section 25 of the Constitution. In addition, she was involved in the Financial Literacy Project of the University’s Legal Aid Clinic.
Chandre completed her training at Shepstone & Wylie, Cape Town, 2012 to 2014, where she worked in, among others, in the Corporate & Commercial as well as the International Transport, Trade & Energy, Departments. Chandre was admitted and enrolled as an attorney in the Western Cape High Court and has obtained Right of Appearance in the Western Cape High Court, in May and October 2014, respectively.
Chandre joined the EELC in 2014 and is a passionate social justice lawyer with a drive to use the law as a tool for social justice and for equality in education. Chandre is particularly interested in the advancement of the rights of children with disabilities, and who are experiencing barriers to learning, and focuses her practice on ensuring that their right to an equitable and quality inclusive education system, is realized.
Tarryn Cooper-Bell – Supervising Attorney
Tarryn obtained both her Bachelor of Science degree as well as her LLB from Rhodes University. She thereafter completed her training as a candidate attorney at the Rhodes University Law Clinic where she was involved in general litigation and various other access to justice programmes.
After her admission in 2012 she was employed as an associate at the Boksburg based law firm of Malherbe, Rigg & Ranwell Attorneys where she specialised in municipal law. The call towards human rights and social justice however inspired her return to the Rhodes University Law Clinic as an attorney in charge of the advice office programme in early 2014 where she furthered the Law Clinic’s work in the human rights field.
She thereafter progressed through the ranks to head of legal services for the Grahamstown office and member of the Rhodes University Law Clinic management committee. As an attorney at the Law Clinic, Tarryn was involved in general litigation, LLB student supervision and lecturing of various modules in the LLB Legal Practice course.
Tarryn joined the EELC in April 2017 to contribute towards the fight for social justice and equal, quality education for all on a national level.
Rubeena Parker – Senior Researcher
Rubeena Parker obtained both Bachelor of Business Science and LLB degrees from the University of Cape Town.
During her studies, motivated by a desire to create opportunities for others to learn, and in so doing, to transcend their environments, Rubeena tutored township based learners in English and History. She was an active member of the UCT Township Debating League, teaching learners debating skills and equipping learners to compete in national debating competitions. Rubeena also volunteered at the Athlone Legal Advice Office, providing practical legal advice to members of the Athlone community.
Rubeena completed her articles and practised as an attorney at Webber Wentzel. During her time there, she developed a keen interest and specialist skills in the areas of constitutional and administrative law and was involved in public interest litigation. Rubeena also spent time working at international law firm, Linklaters, in London.
Recognising education as the key to accessing and advancing all rights constitutionally enshrined, Rubeena joined the EELC in February 2018, as its Senior Researcher, and is looking forward to contributing to our work for equal, quality education for all.
Demichelle Petherbridge – Researcher
Bertha Justice Alumna
Demichelle obtained her B. Comm (Law) degree from Stellenbosch University in 2005, and subsequently completed her post-graduate LLB degree in 2007 at the same university. In August 2008, she obtained a certificate in International and European Legal Studies from Antwerpen University, Belgium, and completed Practical Legal Training through the LEAD School of Legal Practice, Cape Town in 2014.
Demichelle was also a student participant in the Socio-Economic Rights and Administrative Justice Research Project at the Faculty of Law, Stellenbosch University, from 2012 to 2014. In March 2015, she received her doctoral degree from Stellenbosch University, with her dissertation focused on the role of international law in the interpretation of socio-economic rights in South Africa. She joined the EELC in February 2015 and is currently working as an attorney.
While Demichelle has always believed in the importance of human rights, her interest in this field was sparked during her post-graduate studies and her exposure to South Africas’s developing jurisprudence in this area. Since then, she remains convinced of the importance of providing adequate information on human rights in South Africa, and each person’s responsibility to continuously promote their realisation.
Astrid Coombes – Junior Researcher
Astrid is a junior researcher in the EELC’s research unit. Her passion for social justice was cultivated during her studies at the University of Cape Town where she obtained her Bachelor of Social Science degree in 2013 and later went on to obtain her LLB degree in 2016. After completing her articles of clerkship at Webber Wentsel attorneys, Astrid felt drawn to pursue her passion for social justice and joined the EELC’s growing team of researchers, supporting movement lawyering and advocacy through in depth legal and education related research work.
Astrid is committed to putting to use her strong sense of belief in the law and justice as a tool for a structured and well-functioning society.
Yolanda Mnyengeza – Candidate Attorney
Bertha Justice Fellow
Yolanda was born and bred in a small town in Paarl and attended Langa High School. In 2017 she attained her LLB degree from the University of the Western Cape, and thereafter worked for the Equal Education Law Centre as an intern, where she engaged with schools, learners, as well government stakeholders to advocate for the right to education.
Following her internship at the EELC, she worked with ProBono.Org assisting people gain access to legal support and services. Her passion is to assist people from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds access legal information, as well as representation to enable them to improve the quality of their lives.
Yolanda is a first year candidate attorney and Bertha Justice Fellow.
Sipho Mzakwe – Attorney
Bertha Justice Alumna
Sipho joined the EELC in June 2017 as a litigation intern and was subsequently appointed as a CA. Sipho completed his LLB degree at the University of the Western Cape in 2014 and obtained an LLM in 2016.
Sipho is an activist committed to the struggle for social justice. He has been a member of the Social Justice Coalition since 2015. After completion of his internship, Sipho joined the team on a full time basis as a candidate attorney and Bertha Justice Fellow. Sipho has developed expertise in strategic litigation, movement lawyering and supporting clients in a range of issues relating to school admissions and forms of discrimination in schools.
Pila-sande Mkuzo – Candidate Attorney
Bertha Justice Fellow
Pila-sande is from East London in the Eastern Cape. She completed her Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Fort Hare in 2017. She was awarded the Canon Collins Leigh-Day Scholarship and in 2018 received the Dean of Research Exceptional Achievement Award.
Pila-sande has been active in social justice work, including forming part of the steering committee of the East London #TheTotalShutdown and the HIV Policy Conference. As a student, she served as the Secretary of the Indlovukazi Women Empowerment Society and she is currently the chairperson of Passionate Unlimited Peers in Action (PUPA) based in the Eastern Cape. She has also served under the Eastern Cape Aids Council Women’s Sector and the NACOSA Provincial Advisory Committee.
Asiphe Funda – Attorney
Bertha Justice Alumna
Asiphe is from Phillipi, Cape Town. Her passion for social justice stems from her experiences growing up in a disadvantaged community with limited access to resources. She obtained her LLB at the University of the Western Cape in 2017. During her studies, she volunteered for and held leadership positions within various organisations that serve to improve the lives of the poor and of marginalised communities. She was the chairperson of Students for Law and Social Justice and a peer facilitator for Africa Unite.
In 2016, Asiphe was selected for the prestigious South Africa Washington International Program. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Law, State and Multilevel Government at the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape. Asiphe has also interned for various organisations including SECTION27 and the Financial and Fiscal Commission of South Africa.
Yasmina Shabodien – Office Administrator
Yasmina Shabodien joined the EELC in March 2019 in the role of Office Administrator. Yasmina is from Cape Town and has worked in the non-profit sector for over twenty years in an administrative capacity. Prior to joining the EELC, she has worked for Kagiso Trust, Impumelelo Social Innovations Programme and Black Sash. Her portfolio includes financial administration, events management and office administration amongst others. Working for these various organisations has strengthened her commitment and passion to improve social development, social justice and equality within marginalised communities.
Tad Khosa – Media and Communications Coordinator
Tad graduated from the University of Cape Town with a degree in International relations, Public Policy & Sociology. He was also an Associate at the Africa Collaboration Project on Policy and is a Harvard MUN alumnus.
Following this Tad worked as the National Communications Officer at the Legal Resources Centre, where he led planning committees for the Bram Fischer Lecture, George Bizos Human Rights Award and the Public Interest Litigation Gathering
Tad has consulted on global advocacy campaigns alongside the ACLU, Amnesty International and the Open Society Initiative coordinating digital campaigns for policy recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council.
With a passion for innovative communication & advocacy strategies, Tad’s main contribution to social good has been to rewrite narratives and re-imagine the way the social justice sector aims to address the divorce between political perceptions and social reality.