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Florence Ndepele Mumba

Florence Ndepele Mumba

Judge, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
Judge, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
First woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Zambia.

My Story, Your Inspiration

I was one of the few African women who entered law school in Zambia when it was still not readily accepted that women can qualify as lawyers and work alongside men. Some of my friends discouraged me, saying that some male students in the law school were failing because law studies were difficult. In my class, I was the only girl. I always faced teasing from the male students and some of our lecturers who felt that I was in the wrong class as they did not expect women to qualify as lawyers. Today law schools are open to both sexes; the distinguishing factor is competence. in some African countries today, women have been appointed to the highest judicial office, as Chief Justice or Presidents of different court types.

As a Judge at the ICTY, I presided over the trial of The Prosecutor vs. Anto Furundzija, IT-95-17/1. Trial Chamber II always started trials at 08:30 hours every morning. When it was my turn to preside, the legal officer responsible for managing the trial, informed me that some interpreters were not prepared to start work at 08:30hours, it was too early for them. I wondered why that was the case because I was not prepared to start the trial at 09 hours. I raised the matter with the presiding judge of the Trial Chamber, Judge Antonio Cassese who intervened, thus, the trial started at 8:30 hours, each morning until completion. I wondered whether the delay in starting the trial was proposed because the presiding judge was a woman. The half hour delay would have entailed that the trial took longer than was necessary to be completed because the presiding judge was a woman. That was my first test of prejudice against women. There was no valid reason given for the time change. I realized that I had to assert my authority as Judge like everybody else, no “soft robes.”

Quoted in International Courts and the African Woman Judge: Unveiled Narratives (Routledge, 2018).

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