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IAWL High-Level Convening Champions Gender Equality in the African Legal Profession

On Friday, July 5th, 2024, the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) hosted a high-level convening of legal professionals at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, Ghana. The event marked the official launch of the Gender Equality in Law Campaign (GELC), a Pan-African initiative premised on the 3 A’s –Awareness, Advocacy and Activation. The Campaign uses evidence-based research to raise Awareness about the challenges women face in the legal profession. It engages in  Advocacy with crucial institutional stakeholders. It calls for the Activation of institutional change by providing a gender equality in law Model Policy that law firms and judiciaries can adopt. The high-level convening attracted over 200 participants, including esteemed judiciary members, the bar, the legal academy, civil society groups, law students, international organizations and the diplomatic corps.

Mrs. Sheila Minkah-Premo

The event started with a welcome address by Mrs. Sheila Minkah-Premo, President of the Ghana Bar Association Women’s Forum. She indicated the need for more women lawyers in key leadership positions at the bar to address the peculiar issues women face, such as - unequal pay, pregnancy-related discrimination, inequitable hiring, sexual harassment and gender bias/stereotypes. “This we believe can be done by adopting the Gender Equality in Law Model Policy that the Institute for African Women in Law will unveil to us,” she echoed. She stated that the fortunes of women at the bar in Ghana will significantly improve through the collaboration with IAWL due to the depth of research undertaken by the Institute. She encouraged all law firms to adopt the Institute's model policy.

Her Ladyship Justice Gertrude Sackey Torkornoo, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana

Her Ladyship Justice Gertrude Sackey Torkornoo, the Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, officially opened the Gender Equality in Law Campaign, urging all members of the legal profession to support this vital initiative. Her Ladyship stated that women’s strong presence in the legal profession must invite campaigns such as GELC. She expressed empathy for young women lawyers starting their families and stated emphatically that she intends to make the work of young women lawyers easier. She recounted the need for change in the workplace and the role of the current generation in setting the pace for the next generation of young women. She commended IAWL’s evidence-based research as a critical tool in policy-making and gender advocacy in the legal profession, she added:

“I unhesitatingly lend my heart and hand to your work in Ghana,”

Jackson Otieno, Program Manager at Co-Impact

In a solidarity message, Jackson Otieno, Program Manager at Co-Impact, underscored the campaign's importance and the need for collective action. He intimated that Co-Impact is privileged to collaborate with IAWL and witness the launch of GELC. Co-Impact congratulated IAWL for leading this much-needed change in the legal profession to make it an environment where women enter, thrive and rise.

From left: Dr. Satang Nabaneh; Ms. Elizabeth Adu; Dr. Maame Efua Addadzi-Koom, Ms. Amina Kaguah and Ms. Isabel Boaten.

Dr. Satang Nabaneh, Research Professor of Law and Director of Programs at the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton, Ohio, USA, presented the highlights from the GELC evidence-based research. Ms. Elizabeth Adu, Chair of the Board of Directors at IAWL, emphasized the importance of diversity in enriching institutions and teams. Dr. Maame Efua Addadzi-Koom,  Learning and Evaluation Associate at IAWL who led the drafting of the IAWL Gender Equality Model Policy, presented the policy's creation, which was the product of extensive collaboration and expert consultations with lawyers, bar associations and academics. The event transitioned from talk to action with the adoption of the GELC Resolution led by Amina Kaguah, Managing Partner at ENSAfrica, Isabel Boaten, Managing Partner at AB & David, Africa, provided the call to action, calling on all law firms to adopt the IAWL Model Policy with unreserved haste and create conditions for women in law to thrive.

From left: Dr. Maame A.S Mensa-Bonsu; Dr. David Ofosu-Dorte, Ms. Adelaide Benneh Prempeh, Dr. Edem Okudzeto

A panel discussion moderated by Dr. Maame A.S Mensa-Bonsu, Head of Humanities and Social Sciences at Ashesi University, featured panelists under the IAWL network of Men Advocates in Law for Equality (M.A.L.E Allies). The panelists provided diverse experiences and insightful perspectives on the role of men in achieving gender equality in the legal profession. Explaining who a male ally is, Dr. David Ofosu-Dorte, Founder and Senior Partner, AB & David Africa, said that a male ally is one who has decided to join the advocacy for gender equality and sets systems in place to ensure gender equality and parity. Responding to the question of how men can approach other men or introduce them to male allyship, Dr. Edem Okudzeto, an Associate at Sam Okudzeto & Associates, said that men are sympathetic towards their mothers, wives and daughters, so men should be made to visualize the situation in that regard and that creates empathy for women against all forms of discrimination. Adelaide Benneh Prempeh, founder and managing partner at B & P Associates, said, “Male allyship is not a destination but a journey,” which requires men to continually put in the effort to advance gender equality in the legal profession. 

Prof. Margaret Satterthwaite

Addressing the importance of gender equality on the world agenda, Prof. Margaret Satterthwaite, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, highlighted the significance of campaigns such as GELC to the gender equality agenda. She added that, unfortunately, the Sustainable Development Goals for gender equality will not be attained by 2030. She remarked on the role of international agencies in promoting gender equality within the legal field.

Prof. Jarpa Dawuni

Prof. Jarpa Dawuni, Executive Director of IAWL, ended the event with her closing remarks, encouraging women in the Ghana Bar Association to take up leadership positions.

“We don’t have to wait for the men to pull us in; let us go for those positions.”

Since this year is an election year for the GBA, she entreated the leaders who will be voted into office to promote gender equality and eschew sexual harassment. She called on all to join the IAWL community to serve God and humanity. This landmark event represents a significant step towards fostering an inclusive and equitable legal environment for women in law. IAWL looks forward to collaborating with all stakeholders to advance gender equality in law. 


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