Women Judges from about 30 African countries gathered in Libreville, Gabon, for the 1st Meeting of African Women Judges. The meeting, held on the 3rd and 4th of May, was organized by the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa (CCJA) and the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Gabon, with the support and participation of UNDP, UN Women and UNODC. African women judges across the continent gathered to reflect on the barriers that prevent women from entering the judiciary, progressing in their careers and their impact on women's constitutional rights. The gathering assessed the representation of African women in the judicial system and made recommendations on the way forward for women judges in leadership.
In attendance at this high-level conference was the President of Gabon, His Excellency Ali Bongo Ondiba, who gave an opening address at the official opening ceremony, the President of the Constitutional Court of Gabon, Her Excellency Ms. Marie-Madeleine Mborantsuo, as well as the President of the Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Vice-President of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa (CCJA), H.E Mr. Dieudonné Kamuleta Badibanga. Countries represented included Gabon, Senegal, South Africa, Kenya, The Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Angola, Mauritania, Sao Tome, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Benin, Morroco, Mozambique, Benin, Central African Republic and Egypt.
On day one of the conference, Atchere Asuah-Kwasi, Director of Operations of IAWL, on behalf of Prof. Jarpa Dawuni, Executive Director, presented on contextualizing the state of women in the judiciary in Africa. The presentation summarized the research on women judges in Africa by the United Nations Development Fund. The presentation also highlighted IAWL’s research and publications on women judges and its commitment to enhancing the capacity of African women in the legal profession.
The conference attendees also presented on women judges in their various jurisdictions. Lack of political will, low numbers of women in decision-making, lack of quotas, gender stereotypes of women in judicial roles, culture and religion, and rural divide were some issues raised. Interventions such as training and enhancing capacity, coordination between government agencies, strategies to raise the number of women in leadership positions, implementation of policies that will increase the number of women judges, and eradication of obstacles preventing girls from being educated were also proffered as solutions.
It was a great opportunity to have African women judges come together to exchange best practices and learn from each other with the ultimate goal of gender-equal judiciaries in Africa. The conference closed with the “Libreville Declaration” presented by the Secretary General of the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa (CCJA). The Declaration is significant as it details commitments by all present towards attaining gender equality in the judiciary. Clause nine (9) of the Declaration expressly mentions and recognizes the commitment to engage The Institute of African Women in Law (IAWL) and other organizations in attaining gender equality. The IAWL supports the movement to increase the number of women judges not only on the bench but in leadership positions. These are positive steps towards attaining SDG five(5) on gender equality and article 8 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).
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