PIONEER AFRICAN WOMEN IN LAW
First Woman Magistrate
By Abou BA
Therese Dejean (née Yékawé) was born to Jean Wazoua and Henriette Moye in Mobaye, the Central African Republic, on 28 December 1946. Dejean is the first female magistrate in the Central African Republic. Therese Dejean married twice. Her first husband, Maurice Dejean, was a foreign affairs minister before becoming an ambassador in Israel. Patrick Arthur and François Bruno, their first two children were born in Israel. Their third child, Mauricette (Vicko), was born in Bangui. Maurice died as a victim of the Jean-Bedel Bokassa military putsch before Mauricette was born. Therese also has three additional children from her second marriage. Therese Dejean grew up in an environment hostile to the development of girls or women because of the prevalent politics and religion and social considerations. However, Therese had a destiny that would challenge the status quo, making her a pioneer.
When she was four years old, Therese went to Brazzaville with her aunt Louise. She was registered to attend a religious kindergarten that required the children to cut their hair. Therese’s aunt could not accept it and, therefore, had her niece leave the kindergarten. She would then be registered in an establishment of Poto-Poto, where she was a distinguished student. In 1958, Therese registered in the school Ménagère des filles. She got her certificate the next year, which allowed her to join the secondary school of Bangui College des Jeunes Filles.
Between 1963 and 1965, Therese obtained her BEPC in Israel from the Lycée français de Tel-Aviv. Despite social difficulties, she passed a competitive examination of Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) in 1967. Therese will then move towards extraordinary professional fulfillment. Starting in 1969, she started working as a prosecutor. In 1974, Therese started making strides towards a more distinguished career.
From 1974 to 1977, Therese Dejean was the public prosecutor of the Bangui High Court. She was also active in many associations. She was one of the founding members of the African Federation of Women Jurist in 1978. Therese was essential to the federation as she led the executive secretariat. She would attend all the congresses of the federation in many countries, adding her essential contributions to the development of jurist women. In 1992, Therese founded the Central African Republic Association of Women Jurist for the defense and protection of women working in law and led the Association until 1999. Furthermore, in 1994, she was one of the founding members of the Central African Union of Association of Women Jurist.
Between 1977 and 1992, Therese Dejean served as the director of criminal affairs and pardon, the director of civil affairs of the Ministry of Justice, and the general director of legal services at the Ministry of Justice. She was also a jurist expert and a member of the National Commission for the Redaction of Personal and Family code. Additionally, she would work as an inspector of legal services at the Ministry of Justice. In 1996, Therese became a Constitutional Court advisor. She was continuously climbing the career ladder like a tree despite an unfavorable environment. Therese Dejean was internationally recognized. Between 1999 and 2003, she was the head of the Unity for Justice and the coordinator of the legal assistance program for the United Nations Mission for Human Rights in Burundi.
As a magistrate, Therese Dejean was motivated by principles like democracy, peace, women’s development, and human rights. She would organize seminars African Republic to promote such principles. uring the conflicts in CAR, Therese used her magistrate speak to speak out against these conflicts and advocated for the crucial roles women in the society could play in the restoration of peace.
She also fought discrimination against women so that women can contribute to the state institutions. Therese Dejean was a major proponent of the parity law in CAR, which she believed could be achieved through female literacy. She had defended it since the beginning of her magistrate career. In 2017, Therese declared these positions again in VOA Africa Radio. Remembering the difficulties that arose after the independence and the discrimination laws against women, she further stated that women should make efforts through education in order to reach parity.
The feats of this pioneer are far-reaching and exhaustive. It should be noted that during her magistrate career, she earned significant distinctions like being appointed as a Central African Knight, Officer, and Commander of the Order of Merit. However, her retirement would come as a result of a presidential decree.
Therese Dejean left behind a rich, unique and extraordinary career. She was a woman far ahead of her time and peers. If the judiciary were a kitchen, Therese would be the first cordon bleu cook in the Central African Republic. She is a woman the entire nation should be proud of.