Solomy Balungi Bossa
Judge, International Criminal Court.
Founding President, East Africa Law Society.
Former Judge, African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Former Judge, Court of Appeal, Uganda.
As a woman, I had to work twice as hard as any man to gain recognition and trust. One incident demonstrating this arose when I became the first woman President of the Uganda Law Society(ULS), and subsequently, the Founding President of the East Africa Law Society (EALS), that included, at the time, lawyers from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Executive Council, and particularly, I as President, faced many questions at the meeting called to adopt the new Constitution for the EALS in Arusha, in 1995. We tried our best to answer them successfully. I got a backhanded compliment from a lawyer from Kenya, who told me that it was on that day that he understood why I, a woman, had been elected to lead the EALS. A leader is expected to model the values he/she touts and espouses and lead by example. This is a tall order, given that one is under public scrutiny for every word and deed, but it can be done. I have also learned to accept justified and unjustified criticism from the public and the government.
Activism exposed me to the need for women lawyers and judges (a privileged class) to improve access to legal and social justice. Decisions have to be made that may assist women and children who suffer disproportionately from inequitable distribution of resources, unfair customs and laws, and ensuing conflict at the family, national and international levels. I also realized that legal education, sensitization, and training are a powerful tool for overcoming prejudice by its ability to transform lives, especially for women and children. I am always gratified, and feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment, when I participate in legal training and education, through organizations or at the local level with my church and community. I see women's eyes opened to their plight and circumstances, and possibilities of finding solutions to them opening up. It also creates social capital for all participants. I have made several permanent friends in this regard. As women, let us continue to fight for the benefit of all other women.