“Women should no longer be reduced to gender stereotypes, but should be assessed on an equal footing with men in terms of their abilities.” — Dr Evelyne Memphil

Dr. Evelyne Memphil is a leading figure in Cameroonian and international business law. Vice-Chairwoman of the International Chamber of Commerce’s MARD Arbitration Commission, permanent university lecturer, President of the NGO Hope For East Cameroon, and Managing Partner of MEMPHIL Avocats, her career is an inspiration to many. 

Her progress in the field is remarkable, and in just a few years she has established herself as a key figure in business law and international litigation in the Cameroonian and African legal landscape. In particular, she has won the confidence of governments and public corporations, assisting them both as counsel and litigator in major international arbitrations and disputes, notably with the ICSID and the ICC. In Cameroon, for example, she works closely with the State of Cameroon, PAD, SCDP, Camwater and many others. 

She is also a graduate of EIMA in Paris and Harvard Law School in both MARD and international negotiation.  She subsequently joined the Paris Bar School (EFB), gaining valuable professional experience in renowned law firms, both in Miami (Jurado & Farschian) and Paris, notably at Bruguière & Émir. Determined to practice independently, she founded her own firm, Memphil Avocats, in Paris in 2017, then in Yaoundé, Cameroon in 2018. 

Dr. Memphil, your journey in law and academia is truly remarkable. Can you share with us the pivotal moments that shaped your career trajectory and led you to become a leading figure in Cameroonian and international business law?

In reality, I’ve always dreamed of being a lawyer. To wear a black dress. 

When I was young I asked my father what was the right choice of black dress, Gauge, Magistrate or lawyer? 

He said, “Go for freedom, my daughter. You’re too idealistic to be controlled. 

I realized that it was only as a lawyer that I could express this freedom to be and to defend. From that moment on, every step I’ve taken in my life has been aimed at becoming a brilliant lawyer. I’m not yet one, but I’m gradually working towards it. 

I’m trying to stand out from the crowd, to do things better and better. To inspire the younger generation. 

As the Vice-Chairwoman of the International Chamber of Commerce’s MARD Arbitration Commission, you hold a prestigious position. How do you perceive the role of African women in shaping the landscape of international arbitration and dispute resolution?

I think it is vital for African women practicing law to be aware of the predominant role they have and can have in the practice of international arbitration. 

Women are by nature conciliatory. 

In the household or family, the woman is the one who seeks balance. This customary African practice places African women at the heart of the promotion of alternatives to full-blown litigation and, to a large extent, to the practice of private justice through international arbitration. 

I hope to make my term of office that of the involvement of African women as players and promoters of international arbitration. 

Education seems to be at the core of your endeavors, from your role as a university lecturer to your involvement with H4EC. How do you believe education empowers women and communities, particularly in regions like East Cameroon?

I like the good education. 

In the broadest sense of the term, education doesn’t just mean good schooling, but also good morals. 

That’s why I’m convinced that a well-educated woman is an asset to society because she passes this on to a multitude of others. Women have so many assets that are just waiting for a little education and intelligence to blossom. 

I strongly encourage the education of young girls. We need to get them away from the physical conception of their worth.

Your expertise in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and international arbitration is widely recognized. Could you share some insights into how ADR mechanisms can be leveraged to address gender disparities and promote women’s economic empowerment in Africa?

By involving and including more women in ADR practice. We need more women arbitrators appointed to arbitration tribunals and as counsel. They are perceptive and objective. This will give them greater professional visibility and, of course, economic and financial fulfillment as a result. 

As a trailblazer in your field, what advice would you offer to young African women aspiring to pursue careers in law and international business? How can they navigate challenges and break barriers in male-dominated industries?

My advice to young people who want to make a career in law is to give priority to a good higher education and specialization. If you’re competent, you’ll stand out from the crowd. There’s no room for mediocrity in this profession. Lawyers don’t cheat, because our reputation is our business. So focus on your performance and dominate the game! 

The NGO Hope For East Cameroon has made significant contributions to education in the region. Could you share some success stories or impactful initiatives undertaken by the organization, and how they have transformed the lives of individuals and communities?

H4EC has provided around 70 classrooms, cared for around a thousand children and impacted hundreds of villages. 

Today, we have children who are preparing for their baccalaureate, and who have returned to school at the age of 06… It’s a dynamic project that continues to go from strength to strength. We can be proud of the impact it has had on the future of our country and the Eastern region in particular. 

In your opinion, what are the key challenges and opportunities facing women in leadership positions, both in the legal profession and in social advocacy, and how can they be addressed effectively?

A woman’s first challenge is to focus attention on her intrinsic value and not her physical appearance. Once you have succeeded in asserting yourself through your intellectual value, it is less difficult to assert yourself in society. Women should no longer be reduced to gender stereotypes, but should be assessed on an equal footing with men in terms of their abilities. 

Finally, looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future, both personally and professionally? How do you envision continuing your legacy of empowering African women and fostering positive change in your community and beyond?

I want to be remembered for the impact I try to make in the field of education for future generations. 

I want to contribute as much as possible to providing hope of a better future to those who have every reason not to hope. In my opinion, there are no values more certain than education. I will always continue to promote this.

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