AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION
Diana Asonaba Dapaah
Deputy Attorney General & Deputy Minister for Justice of the Republic of Ghana
Why did you decide to study law?
Growing up I had been influenced by the need to advocate for vulnerable persons, particularly women and children. I believed that the law as a profession would provide me with the platform to advocate for women and children's rights. There was no lawyer in my family and I thought I could be the first. The first profession I got to know was the legal profession as my father's friend, who was a lawyer, would tell me I would make a fine lawyer and cheered me on. Medicine was another option, but I had a phobia for blood, so medicine was out. These two reasons propelled me to pursue law as a profession and I was convinced that I was destined to be a lawyer.
What is your proudest professional moment thus far?
At a relatively young age, I became a law lecturer at the Faculty of Law, GIMPA. At that age, most of my colleagues, like myself, were commencing their legal career. I was privileged to secure a teaching job, which I find prestigious, in addition to my law practice. I was able to combine full time practice as a lawyer and joined the law faculty in 2011 as the first woman law lecturer. I used to joke that I was the youngest in the Faculty, not only among my colleagues but also even among the students.
Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?
I have achieved everything relatively faster in my life than ordinary. I had the chance to do my PhD on two occasions and I had to defer until 2019 when I decided to go back and finish what I wanted to do. Now that I am in this new position as Deputy Attorney General, it might take longer to finish and I wish I had taken up the offer when it came in 2016. But I don't regret the choices I have made that have brought me to where I am today.
Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.
When I tell people that I have not dealt with many challenges professionally they find it quite surprising. I have encountered sexist challenges and language like "you need to slow down." Thankfully, I have a very close family that supports me and are my greatest cheerleaders. Society will often say "slow down", "have a family." But I have always shut out the negative voices and things that can derail me, so I don't even see them to allow them to derail me. I do not see what I have not achieved yet as challenges, I practice an unapologetic faith in God and that drives me forward and I firmly believe He makes all things beautiful in His own time, including having a family.
What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?
Toughen your mind and shut out all distractions about your incapabilities and focus on your capabilities because you are much more capable than you even know. Focus on being a better professional each year. Reasonable fallibilities are allowed but your strength and discipline should help you overcome your fallibilities. For women, we should remind ourselves that each morning is an opportunity for you to be a better version of yourself; only look back to pick the lessons, but write your own beautiful story each day. You have earned it!