Counsel, International Criminal Court (The Hague)
Founder, Josette Kadji and Associates (Cameroon)
I was called to the bar in 1985, then I ventured out to set up my own law firm, and it has been 35 years since then. At the time, I was young, yet I understood the importance of my role as a female lawyer in the development of my country and our society. There were many challenges I had to overcome in the early years as a young woman lawyer, especially since it was still a largely men dominated profession. However, building my credibility wasn’t my only concern. In growing my firm, I also had to ensure that the team I put together understood how our work could positively impact our society and thus, we should use that platform in the best way possible.
Eventually, I worked my way up and became among the first female lawyers to work at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. I started there as Principal attorney in 1997. Working in the international criminal tribunal is no short of a trial (no pun intended) as one can easily imagine. My toughest case was the “Butare trial” which started in 2001 and took 10 years to conclude. In that trial, a group of government officials, including one woman, were accused of genocide. It was the first time a woman was found guilty of genocide by an international court.
As counsel at the International Criminal Court, I’m currently part of the defense team of Charles Ble Goude, in the president Gbagbo’s case. Working as a lawyer in the international arena is a challenging job, but one that I love to do, and I give it my best each day. Coming from Cameroon to the International Criminal Court has been a journey. Looking back on those 35 years, I can say that the influence of female lawyers has increased exponentially in Cameroon, and also in the international system. But more needs to be done to connect more women from Africa within these spaces.
I’m convinced by the spirit that has guided women warriors in Africa, that we can continue the legacy of our mothers, and to push the future generation. To young women in law, I want to say: stay focused, do not doubt yourself, look in the mirror each day and say, “if these women in law did, so can I !”