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How women judges can cause positive social transformation

By Hannah Okwengu | Published Thu, May 18th 2017 at 00:00, Updated May 17th 2017 at 21:35 GMT +3


Violence against women and girls is one of the most rampant human rights violations that plague Africa. Statistics show that one in every five women will encounter physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime.

Over the years, women and children have continued to bear the brunt of negative cultural ideologies and practices that perpetuate sexual violence and inequality. Such retrogressive cultures greatly hamper women’s ability to progress in the society.

Ending violence

Recognising the importance of collaboration to prevent and reduce gender-based violence among women and girls, African women judges will this week gather in Nairobi to deliberate on ways and means to end GBV and gender inequality. Under the umbrella of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), the three-day conference in Nairobi will bring together African judges from ten countries.

The three-day judge’s conference is themed “Women Judges enabling Sustainable Development Goals: Opportunities, Challenges and Strategies.” The choice of the theme is informed by the recognition that through upholding the rule of law and promoting a conducive environment for the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), judges will positively influence the social equilibrium, thereby paving the way for empowerment of women and girls.

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In addressing this theme, women judges will, among other things, take cognisance of the SDGs, discuss their role in the Judiciary and identify how they can harness their leadership to contribute towards the eradication of inequality and other challenges such as poverty, gender vulnerability and access to justice including emerging gender issues in the electoral process that hamper sustainable development and good governance.

About 300 participants are expected to attend the conference, led by the IAWJ President Hon Susana Medina, a judge from Argentina. The IAWJ has encouraged the formation of affiliate national associations that share a commitment to equal justice and the rule of law.

Consequently, the association has grown national affiliates in Africa, Asia/South Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe/Middle East and North America.

Formed 26 years ago, the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), which has a membership of over 5,000 judges from 82 countries, recognises that women judges are in a unique position to impact the rights of women through the judicial system.

Indeed, through united leadership, women judges can be a catalyst for positive social transformation not just on women and children issues, but for society at large. The IAWJ objectives are to pioneer judicial education programs to advance human rights, uproot gender bias from judicial systems and promote women’s access to the courts; develop a global network of women judges and create opportunities for judicial exchange and trainings; foster judicial leadership and support access to justice as well as judicial independence.

Through the initiative of the pioneer women Judges in Kenya, Lady Justice Effie Owuor (now retired), Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch (currently at the International Criminal Court of Justice) and Lady Justice Rosslyn Nambuye (currently Judge in the Court of Appeal), the Kenya Women Judges Association (KWJA) was founded and registered in 1993 as an association of women Judges that is affiliated to the IAWJ.

The KWJA envisions a judiciary that promotes human rights, gender sensitivity and equal access to justice for the vulnerable women and children.Women judges and magistrates bring diversity in strengthening the rule of law and the implementation and enforcement of laws, particularly those that provide access to justice for women and girls.

KWJA working closely with IAWJ continues to address gender-based violence and provide awareness and recommend mechanism to end social, economic and legal factors that bring about gender-based discrimination and violence against women

Justice Okwengu is judge of the Court of Appeal and Chairperson, Kenya Women Judges Association

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