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IAWL Launches New Flagship Reports

Guided by our core principles of producing empirically grounded, and theoretically informed research, IAWL is happy to share two of our latest Flagship Reports. These reports are based on discussions and findings from our events. We hope they inspire you in your professional journey. Flagship Report: WOMEN IN THE LEGAL ACADEMY Flagship Report: GENDER EQUALITY IN LAW: THE ROLE OF MALE ALLIES

Join us for our Speaker Series !

The Institute for African Women in Law has launched a new Speaker Series featuring leaders in the industry on various topics essential to the development of women in law. Join us for the first two-part series; a collaboration with the Commonwealth Lawyers Association. PART ONE Leadership Essentials for Women in Law October 28, 2021 PART TWO Self-care for Women in Law: Taking Care of the Physical and Mental Wellbeing November 11, 2021

WEBINAR: Where are the African women in international law?

This webinar brings together high-level panelists who will discuss the factors behind the paucity of African women in international law organizations such as the International Law Commission, women as legal officers in international organizations and arbitral bodies. The International Law Commission (ILC) is holding elections in November, 2021. Since the ILC was created over 70 years ago, 229 members have been elected, out of which only seven have been women. To date, no African woman has served on the ILC, despite the nomination of Mwangala Beatrice Kamuwanga of Zambia in 1991. The upcoming elections in November will feature 13 candidates, only one is a woman—Prof. Phoebe Okowa of Kenya. Panelists will discuss why gender inclusion is important, and provide practical recommendations to governments, individuals, and other bodies interested in gender diversity in international law on how we can achieve gender equality. Preregister for the event: SURVEY OF AFRICAN WOMEN IN INTERNATIONAL LAW Are you a woman working in an international law organization or in any other capacity related to international law? Please complete our survey on African women in international law. Thank you. Click here to complete the survey: This event is co-sponsored by: Office of the Legal Counsel of the African Union Embassy of Kenya to Ethiopia & Permanent Representative to the African Union The GQUAL Campaign

African Women in Law Legacy Project: Justice Mary Mamyassin Sey

The African Women in Law Legacy project is a digital archive of the oral legal narratives of iconic African women in law. In this series, we present Justice Mary Mamyassin Sey, a Supreme Court Justice and the first woman judge in The Gambia. A distinguished jurist, whose judicial service spans The Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Vanuatu. A judge who stood up to her judicial oath even in times when it posed a threat to her life. PART 1 PART 2 PART 3

African Women in Law Legacy Project: Justice Florence N.M Mumba

The African Women in Law Legacy project is a digital archive of the oral legal narratives of iconic African women in law. In this series, we present Justice Florence Ndepele Mwachande Mumba, an international judge from Zambia. The first woman high court judge whose judicial career has contributed to justice at home and abroad. PART 1 PART 2 PART 3

IAWL Participates in the Women in Law Initiative Conference

The Women in Law Initiative- Vienna, presents the 2021 Conference and Justitia Awards, September 9-11, 2021. Join our expert panel discussion on the global situation of women in legal professions including best practice examples and recommendations on how to promote and implement gender equality and diversity in all legal professions on a global scale, with: 📌 Swethaa Ballakrishnen, socio-legal scholar, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of California, Irvine, and writer of 'Accidental Feminism' 📌 J. Jarpa Dawuni Esq., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Political Science at Howard University Washington, DC & Execute Director of the Institute for African Women in Law (IAWL) 📌 Divya Dwivedi, Advocate at the Supreme Court of India 📌 Rehana Khan Parker, lawyer, activist, and director of WOZA, South Africa 📌 Paula Tavares, Senior Legal and Gender Specialist at the Worldbank Expert Panel Discussion, September 9, 3:15 pm (CET), online. The Women in Law Conference, September 9-11, 2021. Get your ticket now at

Break the Glass Ceiling! Why Women Deserve a Seat at the Presidency of the Ghana Bar Association

By. J. Jarpa Dawuni, Ph.D. In 1887, John Mensah Sarbah entered the historical record as the first Ghanaian lawyer when he was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in London. It would take another 58 years before the first Ghanaian woman— Essi Matilda Forster (neé Christian), would be called to the Bar at Grays Inn in London, in 1945 and later to the Gold Coast Bar in 1947. Globally, the legal profession was emerged as a male-dominated profession, and women had to fight to be included— first, for the right to study law, then for the right to practice the profession. Despite the global feminization of the legal profession, women still struggle in the legal profession to be accorded the equality they deserve in the practice of law, and in leadership positions. The establishment of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghana in 1958, and the Ghana School of Law in 1959 by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, opened the way for many Ghanaians to study law on Ghanaian soil. Unlike women’s experiences in the United States, the United Kingdom, and much of Europe in the early days of the profession, women in Ghana were not denied access to a legal education. Nonetheless, the colonial policies of limited basic education for the “natives”, and particularly for girls, and pervading socio-cultural practices, meant that the intake of women pursuing a law degree took time to grow. Since Essi Matilda Forsters’ historic achievement as the first woman lawyer in Ghana, Ghana has witnessed a gradual feminization of legal education, and consequently the legal profession, as more women acquire a law degree—with most of them graduating top of their class. This brief historical journey leads us to the pathways women have taken after law school. A survey of the legal profession in Ghana shows that women can be found in all areas of legal practice—as in-house counsel, corporate executives, government agencies, law professors, judges, magistrates, associates, partners in law firms, and managing partners. Currently, women account for more than 30% of the members of the Ghana Bar Association. A recent study by the American Bar Association indicates that despite the increase in the number of women lawyers, women continue to face gender-based challenges leading to their slower upward mobility, and the high rates of attrition from the practice of law. A report by the Institute for African Women in Law, Unveiling Subalternity? Women and the Legal Profession across Africa, highlighted some of the challenges women across the continent face, and these include handling the work-life balance due to the gendered division of labor in most homes, sexual harassment, workplace gender-based discrimination such as unequal pay, uneven promotion, and lack of access to networks. The challenges women face in Ghana mirror other global trends as documented by the International Bar Association’s Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession. Notwithstanding these challenges, women in Ghana have risen to top leadership positions. The symbolic representation of women in these positions indicates the existence of favorable opportunity structures for women’s leadership in law. Despite the constant wrestling with the ghosts of patriarchy upon which the legal profession was built, women in Ghana have forged a way forward in excelling at the profession both at home and abroad. Women lawyers in Ghana have demonstrated their leadership capabilities including holding the top judicial position as Chief Justice, and the table below provides a few of these gains: Among some of the top-ranking law firms in Ghana, women are well represented as partners and managing partners: Women and the Leadership Debacle The data demonstrate unequivocally that women have made great strides within the legal profession notwithstanding the myriad of challenges they face. Why has the leadership of the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) remained a promise land yet to be reached by women? Harveys (1966) Law and Social Change in Ghana, traces the formation of the current GBA to its predecessor, the Gold Coast Bar Association in 1904, despite the formation of the Superior Courts of the Gold Coast Colony in 1887. Since the establishment of the GBA in Ghana in 1958, the leadership of the GBA has been held by men. Despite the demonstrated leadership of women in all the major areas of the legal and judicial practice in Ghana, why has the GBA presidency remained under the exclusive leadership of men? Is the GBA still operating under the notion that “there are no women at the Bar?” Why Women Deserve a Seat at the GBA Presidency Felicia Gbesemete, a veteran lawyer came close to holding the top leadership position within the GBA when she was elected Vice President of the GBA and served from 2004 to 2007. Since then, no woman has had the opportunity to lead the GBA at the national level. The absence of women in the top two leadership positions—President and Vice President is not because women have not contested for these positions. One of the two contenders in the current election cycle is Efua Ghartey, a lawyer with over 30 years of practice at the bar, and has served as the President of the Regional Chapter of the Greater Accra Bar Association for two terms. Efua Ghartey is not new to this game. She contested for the position of President of the GBA in 2018 and came in second, losing by only 67 votes. Will this second time be the charm? The answer depends on how we adhere to the practical steps offered below. Various theoretical frameworks explain the challenges women face in accessing leadership positions. Additionally, phrases such as the “glass ceiling”, “treading water”, the “leaky pipeline” and the “old boys’ networks” have been used to explain the lack of women in leadership positions. In the ensuing discussion, I adopt a problem-solving, solution-oriented approach to highlighting why women deserve a seat at the GBA presidency. Women in Ghana have shown from the Makola market to the executive boardroom of global corporations that women know how to lead. Women in Ghana have shown that when favorable opportunity structures exist, women can lead the country successfully as they did as Chief Justices. Women in Ghana have demonstrated that when granted the opportunity to lead as deans of law faculties, they lead with excellence and leave behind a legacy, including constructing a law faculty building fit for the University of Ghana School of Law. Women in Ghana have shown that they can lead top law firms as managing partners and as a majority of partners in some of the leading law firms in the country. Women in Ghana have shown that they can serve in international courts and tribunals as judges, contributing to global justice and human rights. How do we create equal opportunities within the GBA Presidency? Elections to the presidency of the GBA has become a highly politicized charade. Historically, the GBA president has been a key player in national politics, including serving on important boards and constitutional selection committees. The GBA President has also been a vocal proponent of the voices of members of the Bar vis-à-vis the government. These roles have meant that the prestige and power accorded to the GBA presidency has increased over time. It is time for the GBA to move from power politics to equality politics. Practical Solutions from Power Politics to Equality Politics Men[4] must be allies in the global movement for gender equality Men must value the leadership capabilities of women— which are on display every day from the courtroom to the boardroom. Men must re-socialize themselves to believe that the old age “gentlemen at the bar” is an archaic, outdated, and regressive colonial heritage that must be thrown out. Men must be intentional in their choice to promote and support women in leadership Women must support women. Women make up more than 30% of the Bar. If women support women, the critical mass can push and tilt the pendulum in favor of a compelling woman candidate. Women voting for women is not gender politics. Women voting for women is the recognition that symbolic representation is the first step to substantive representation. If women can lead the judiciary of Ghana as Chief Justice, lead the law faculties as Deans, and lead the nation as Minister of Justice and Attorney General, they can surely lead the GBA as President! Ghana continues to be a trendsetter in the legacy of women in law across Africa. It is time to raise the stakes. It is time to demonstrate that women can lead in all areas of the law—including the presidency of the Ghana Bar Association. It is time to change that picture! [1] International Criminal Court (ICC)
[2] African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR)
[3] United Nations Administrative Tribunal (UNADT)
[4] I am conscious of non-essentialism and recognize that not all men feel, act, and think the same way. My usage of the phrase “men” does not mean a blanket application to all men, but only to those who fall in the categories of the prescribed needed change.

Prof. Dyani-Mhango achieves a first at the University of Pretoria

By Michele Lynda Mugenyi On August 1, 2021, Prof. Ntombizozuko Dyani-Mhango became the first black woman Professor and head of a department in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria— Dyani-Mhango was named a Professor and Head of the Department of Public Law. This comes a year after her appointment as a Professor in the Department of Jurisprudence at the university. Dyani-Mhango’s intentions for the Department of Public Law are to tie its courses to the social and political issues that South Africa faces. According to Dyani-Mhangi, it is important to consider the role that Public Law plays when considering issues such as South Africa’s former President being accused of corruption, or the government failing to abide by its international obligations. Dyani-Mhango has also stressed the importance of addressing issues raised through student-led protests, such as decolonizing the curriculum and stopping the increase in student fees. Prof. Dyani-Mhango has over 16 years of experience teaching, conducting research and supervising in the areas of constitutional law, public international law and international criminal law. In addition, she also served as a clerk at the South African Constitutional Court, was admitted as an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa, and is rated as an established researcher by South Africa’s National Research Foundation. These accomplishments did not come without their fair share of challenges. As Prof. Dyani-Mhango points out in her Amandla! Women to Watch article, she “had to constantly prove [herself] three times more than others” because of her status “as a black South African woman in the academy”. Hurdles that she had to overcome included not being taken seriously in her craft and constantly feeling like a minor. However, Prof. Dyani-Mhango’s ability to overcome her obstacles and keep striving for success within the legal academy are what enabled her to blaze a trail for other black South African women within the legal academy.

Judicial Journeys: From the Bar to the Bench: Justice Monica Mugenyi

Justice is often depicted as a woman, yet, the role of women judges in promoting justice remains an uphill battle due to intersecting challenges of patriarchal institutional cultures, persistent gender norms and social perceptions of women. In this series, we present Judge Monica Mugenyi, a jurist from Uganda whose judicial journey has often been marked by being the youngest in her cohort. Listen to the two-part video on her journey through practice as a lawyer to becoming a judge and the first woman Presiding Judge on the Court of First Instance of the East African Court of Justice.

Women judges and the journey to constitutionalism-Justice Yvonne Mokgoro.

The rule of law cannot be achieved without judicial independence and judicial integrity. Judicial independence is the number one principle for judicial conduct, as laid down by the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct. The work of organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Judicial Integrity Network, aim among other things, to protect the individual and institutional integrity of judges and judiciaries respectively. Across the continent of Africa, judges— both women and men, have been the subject of excessive executive powers, and some have paid the ultimate price of death, including Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow of Ghana. In this series, we explore the work of women judges who have stood up for judicial integrity, independence and impartiality. We present the three-part series featuring Justice Yvonne Mokgoro (Ret.) of the Constitutional Court of South Africa as she shares her journey with Judge Ann Claire Williams (Ret.). Amandla (power) to Justice Mokgoro!

Congrats to IAWL Intern Christine Lassey: Valedictorian at the University of Ghana -School of Law

by Michele Lynda Mugenyi Christine Selikem Lassey (CSL) is a recent graduate of the School of Law-University of Ghana, who has combined her love for learning the law with gaining practical experience as an intern at IAWL. Christine recently graduated top of her class, and was the Valedictorian for Law, Medicine and Dentistry. Michele Lynda Mugenyi (MLM), Program Assistant at IAWL had a brief chat with Christine. MLM: Why did you read for Law? CSL: Government was my favorite course in High School; I would spend hours reading my government textbook and other related books on governance. In one class we discussed the topic 'Organs of Government'. After class, I read chapter 11 of the 1992 Constitution and was fascinated by the delicate role the Judiciary plays in the legal system. I have wanted to be a Justice of the Supreme Court ever since. MLM: What does it mean to you to be valedictorian? CSL: When I decided to apply to read for Law, some people discouraged me— I was not the crème de la crème of my High School. Nevertheless, I was determined to outdo myself. Hence why gaining admission to Law School was the catalyst for my journey to academic excellence. Now that I have become class’ Valedictorian for Law, Medicine and Dentistry I am convinced that hard work pays off. I have proven to myself, and to others, that anything is possible. MLM: Studying under COVID-19 conditions CSL: My first and second year in Law School was a smooth ride. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in my third year, the semester was abruptly interrupted. The School Management moved teaching and learning online, and I had to adjust my learning routine. Initially, I studied in the library all day to avoid distractions at home, but the lockdown meant that I had to learn at home with limited legal resources. My dilemma was compounded by unstable internet connectivity. I was subjected to an eight-week-long semester in my final year instead of the usual fourteen weeks. However, the management of the Law School assisted its students tremendously during these difficult times. MLM: What do you plan to do in the future when you finish law school? CSL: My goal is to sit on the Supreme Court of Ghana, become the Chief Justice, and branch out into the international judicial system. Before then, I want to gain valuable experience as a lawyer. Similarly, I desire to be a legal academic and contribute significantly to legal discourse.

Women judges and the cost of judicial independence & integrity.

The rule of law cannot be achieved without judicial independence and judicial integrity. Judicial independence is the number one principle for judicial conduct, as laid down by the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct. The work of organizations such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Judicial Integrity Network, aim among other things, to protect the individual and institutional integrity of judges and judiciaries respectively. Across the continent of Africa, judges— both women and men, have been the subject of excessive executive powers, and some have paid the ultimate price of death, including Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow of Ghana. In this series, we explore the work of women judges who have stood up for judicial integrity, independence and impartiality. We present the first in this series in the person of Judge Nkemdilim Izuako of Nigeria. Listen to the five-part series of her interview with Judge Ann Claire Williams (Ret.) as she discusses her journey from Nigeria, through The Gambia, The Solomon Islands, and the UN Administrative Tribunal. We say AMANDLA!(power) to all women judges who stand up for judicial integrity.