WOMEN CHIEF JUSTICES ACROSS AFRICA
Click below to read our background paper:
Her Ladyship Chief Justice: The Rise of Female Leadership in the Judiciary in Africa
President, Constitutional Court, 1993-1998.
Elisabeth Pognon was born in 1937 in the South of Togo. As a child, she attended secondary school in Senegal. From there, Pognon was educated at the University of Poitiers in France and Paris University. Within her university, she studied the Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences. Immediately following her graduation from college, Pognon became a jurist. With her experience as a jurist, she leveraged her knowledge to rise from the court of first instance of Cotonou to a counselor at the appeals court to the Supreme Court and finally the Constitutional Court. She was Benin’s first woman judge.
In the interim of these positions, she also taught as a lecturer at ‘Centre des Formations Admistrative et Professionelle’. Pognon was originally nominated by the National Assembly for a position at the Constitutional Court. Amongst a candidate pool of four, Pognon, was elected as President for the Constitutional Court by her fellow members of the court. She served as President from 1993-1998 as the first female lead of a national Constitutional Court both in Africa and worldwide.
The Constitutional Court has more power than the Supreme Court, which in Benin is the highest court for administrative matters. The Constitutional Court is considered to have the greatest powers for a high court in a country surpassing the powers granted to France and Germany’s high courts. In this position, Pognon functioned as a mediator during the tumultuous political environment. The Constitutional Court was originally created in a democratic transition of power in Benin in 1990. Thus, Pognon utilized her position to uphold democratic government from her position of neutrality within the court system.
During her tenure as President, Elisabeth Pognon was gifted the Africa Award of the Africa Foundation of the German Parliament. Upon her leave from the Constitutional Court, Pognon was appointed as a distinguished African citizen for the inaugural ‘Panel of the Wise’ created by the African Union. She filled this position until 2014 upon her retirement.