PIONEER AFRICAN WOMEN IN LAW
Third woman Magistrate in Botswana, and the only woman Magistrate in the late 1980s
Sanji Monageng was born as Sanji Mmasenono Gochani on August 9, 1950, in Serowe, a village in Botswana’s Central District. Monageng attended various schools early on, as she followed her mother, who was posted to teach in various primary schools across the countryside.
At the end of her secondary education, Monageng took a job at a bank in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, a position which she held for ten years. During this period, she married a man with the last name Monageng and had three children. The dissolution of this marriage introduced her to Botswana’s discriminatory legal system and motivated her to study law.
Monageng has valued education throughout her lifetime. After deciding to pursue a career in law, Monageng enrolled at the University of Botswana in 1982 and obtained her Bachelor of Laws in 1987. Years later, after she had established a career in law, she obtained her Master’s in International Criminal Law at the Grotius Center for International Law Studies, at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, in 2007. Most recently, she received a diploma in International Commercial Arbitration at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in London in 2016.
Monageng’s legal career began in the judiciary. She started her career in law as a Magistrate Judge in the Courts of the Republic of Botswana in 1987 where she served for ten years. In 1997, she founded and worked as the Chief Executive Officer of the Law Society of Botswana, a position she held till 2006. Following this, Monageng served as a High Court Judge in the Republic of The Gambia until 2007. Then, between 2008 and 2009, she worked as a Judge in the High Court of the Kingdom of Swaziland, where she was responsible for criminal and civil cases as well as constitutional matters.
Monageng continued her judicial journey and was appointed as a Judge to the International Criminal Court (ICC) from 2009 to 2018. Between 2009 and 2012, she served on the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court. In 2012, Monageng was appointed as the first Vice-President of the Court, a position she held for three years. As well as her role as Vice-President of the Court, she served as a Judge in the Appeals Division from 2012 to 2018 and was appointed President of the (Appeals) Division for 2014 and 2015. Her position as a Judge in the Appeals Division of the ICC was a high point of her career, as she held one of the highest judicial positions internationally.
After leaving the ICC in 2018, Monageng was sworn in as the Judge of the Southern African Development Community Administrative Tribunal (SADCAT) in 2019 for a two-year contract. This Tribunal exists to ensure adherence to and proper interpretation of the provisions of the SADC Treaty.
Over the course of her career, Monageng has attended a number of conferences and seminars on human rights, as a participant, moderator or keynote speaker. As a result of this, she has held lectures and published papers and journal articles on human rights and international criminal law.
Monageng has received a number of awards over the course of her career recognizing her efforts. These include the Human Rights Award given by the African Human Rights Consortium (Gaborone) in 2012, the Presidential Order of Honor from Botswana President Ian Khamafor outstanding service in September 2013, and the Human Rights Award by the International Association of Women Judges in 2014. These awards are good evidence of her impact on the legal landscape in Botswana and internationally.
Furthermore, Monageng has a passion for the preservation of human rights. She was a member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) from 2003 to 2009, serving as the Commission’s Chairperson in 2007. Additionally, she also chaired the Follow-up Committee on Torture, Inhumane, Degrading, and Other Treatment, one of the special mechanisms of the Commission.
Monageng is also a member of the International Association of Women Judges, the International Commission of Jurists, and the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law. Her participation in various international organizations demonstrates her commitment to human rights and international law.
Judge Monageng is a pioneer woman in the law for a number of reasons. She was the third woman to ever be Magistrate in Botswana and was the only woman Magistrate in the late 1980s. She also held the influential and significant position of an ICC judge for nine years and was appointed as the Court’s first Vice-President.
Furthermore, her passion for human rights and criminal law, evidenced by her awards, publications on human rights, and commitment to the ACHPR , distinguishes her and earns her the label of pioneer woman in law.