#16daysofactivism with Lindsay Henson from Lawyers Against Abuse – Episode 19

Dec 10, 2018

Episode 19 – #16daysofactivism with Lindsay Henson from Lawyers Against Abuse

Lindsay Henson is the Executive Director of non-profit organisation Lawyers against Abuse (LvA) in September 2014. She holds a law degree from Harvard Law School (2014) and a B.S. from the University of California, Los Angeles (2007). Before joining LvA, Lindsay worked with NGOs in India, Bangladesh, and the Philippines addressing gender-based violence and other human rights issues. She also has experience working with victims of domestic violence and sexual violence in both the criminal and civil legal systems in the United States and is admitted to the New York State Bar. We invited Lindsay on the podcast in observance of 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence in South Africa (25 November – 10 December). It takes serious hustle to keep the lights on and the engine running in a non-profit like LvA. In this episode, Lindsay shares some of her personal journey as well as some wisdom from her experience of managing a non-profit organisation.

lindsay henson leadership quote image


Advice and perspectives on what it takes to manage a Non-Profit

As the Executive Director of a small non-profit, Lindsay has had to wear multiple hats from accounting and financial administration, building relationships with donors, fundraising, running events, doing the marketing, updating social media, keeping the operations of the organization on track, managing the staff, and the list continues. Although Lindsay started out her journey into social justice as a lawyer, as a leader of an organization, she has had to be less hands-on with the technical aspects of the service. Lindsay enjoys being in the leadership role, but feels that her experience starting out on the ground was a critical part of her development as a leader.

The nature of the work Lindsay and her team does can be emotionally draining, with burnout rates already being high in the non-profit sector. At LvA an important part of working for the organization is having debriefing sessions and encouraging self-care. They also incorporate monthly wellness sessions with the team

Social Justice and Working to Combat Gender-based Violence

LvA provides holistic legal and psychosocial support to victims of gender-based violence and to facilitates systemic change through strategic engagement with state actors and the communities in which they serve. Since LvA follows a community-based model where they have to be deeply rooted in the community, the organization has been very purposeful in focusing on just one area. They are currently based in Diepsloot where there is a very high prevalence of inter-generational gender-based violence. LvA was established to address the problem that perpetrators are more often than not held accountable due to an inefficient justice system, which perpetuates the cycle of violence in the community. Through their legal expertise they provide support in helping victims obtain protection orders and also support them in criminal cases. We support them all the way from the moment they go to the police to open a case, making sure they are treated with dignity and respect, following up to make sure cases don’t fall through the cracks.

At the same time they also support victims on a psycho-social level to deal with the trauma and process what has happened to them. Through this integrated and comprehensive approach they are seeing a higher percentage of cases making it to the courts and a higher rate of convictions.

psycho-social support provided to victims of abuse

Lindsay also shares a success story where they were able to support a 6-year old client to testify against their abuser, which resulted in a successful prosecution, which in effect means that they were able to see a child sex offender removed from the community. Lindsay also describes how the trauma their clients endure is a huge challenge in achieving a successful conviction and why the psycho-social support they provide is such a key aspect to the legal support they provide.


Key Takeaways:

  • Networking is a critical skill regardless of the type of work you do.
  • Even if you are running a non-profit, you still need to run it like a business
  • It’s one thing to have passion, passion is critical, but it’s not sufficient, you have to build your brand and build a sustainable organization
  • To be a great leader, it is important to understand the challenges the people you lead face on the ground
  • Community engagement is a critical component of successfully achieving your objectives when you are providing community based resources
  • It is critical to have strong relationships with other organizations in the community you are operating in
  • Diversification of funding sources is key for the survival of a non-profit
  • You have to think strategically about who you choose to align with when it comes to funding. Choose corporate social investment partners whose vision aligns with yours
  • Your funders are investing in your work, so even though there is no monetary return for your investors, they need to know that you are using the money efficiently so you need to have processes and systems in place that shows you are accountable
  • Develop a clear theory of change and strategic approach to achieving your objectives



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