Born and raised in India, Archana Medhekar is a seasoned lawyer and passionate mediator.  Specializing in family law, she is deeply committed to empowering women and children.

Archana’s career began, not as a lawyer, but as a student immersed in the world of science, aspiring to study physics and possibly research.  Roused by the gender inequalities plaguing her own country, she wrote adamantly about women’s rights and the barriers they face.

As she delved deeper into women’s issues, Archana’s motivation to enable solutions grew.  Embracing her passion for social justice issues, she changed her career path and joined law school.  She became a family lawyer with the goal of eliminating gender inequalities.  She joined the effort to end violence against women and children.

After many years of practicing law in India, Archana moved to Canada in 2014, now living with her husband and son in Toronto.  The move from India to Canada shifted Archana’s entire viewpoint on gender inequality and justice.  She realized that gender-based violence occurs in all countries and affects women across all racial, national, social, and economic groups:

The women that I am serving in Canada face similar challenges as in India.  The face of violence changes and the issues might be different, but unfortunately, the world is the same.  Living in India, I always thought that most issues related to women and inequality were because of patriarchy, lack of education, and financial dependence.  But now that I have been living in a developed country for over 15 years, I believe these challenges are about power imbalances and how we think.  How do we change the pattern of thinking?

To change patterns of thinking, Archana embraced mediation.  With over 20 years of legal experience, she recognizes that law alone cannot answer all questions.

In the courthouse, she continues to elevate justice and compassion for refugee and immigrant families (non-status women and children).  Yet, she also believes that women’s advancement is an intersectional, multi-dimensional effort.  Women oppressed by inequality come from all walks of life.  They experience discrimination on multiple levels.  The authentic conversation and tailor-made solutions of mediation create a better opportunity for mindsets to change.

Archana became a certified family mediator in 2015.  For Archana, mediation gives families an access to justice that a formal court system may not allow.  When she joined MBBI, Archana was amazed by a network of mediators with such diverse backgrounds sharing the same passion:

[The passion] is contagious.  MBBI makes me feel so connected.  On the ground, we train and empower women to mediate and speak with various players in their communities.  We don’t find solutions for them.  Our approach is empowering them.  This is the ideology that is going to take the world forward.  Joining MBBI felt like going home.

In March 2018, Archana served on the MBBI delegation at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62).  She was struck by the power of the event.  The stories, struggles, and successes shared elevated women’s voices.  The newly introduced Women, Peace, and Security Index created a way to measure women’s inclusion, justice, and security.  This interdisciplinary UN platform created an opportunity for intersectionality and collaboration among passionate peacebuilders.

For Archana, the key to change is working locally and thinking globally.  She is committed to promoting mediation as an international peacebuilding mechanism.  Yet, by working with one family at a time, Archana connects the local to the global.  In a single family, relationships can be mended, lives can be changed, and communities can be transformed.  By holding each other’s hands and building on positivity, we can all make a difference – one family at a time.

Article by Kayla Elson, ITI Coordinator.

Archana is a member of the MBBI Leadership team for UN Working Group under the SDG Action Group as High-Level Political Forum 2019 co-chair. Archana is an active member of the MBBI Canada group. She can be reached by e-mail at amlaw@amlaw.ca.