1st Regional Symposium of African Women Judges
The Union of Moroccan Women Judges (UMWJ), under the direction of their President and IAWJ’s Secretary/Treasurer, the Hon. Mina Sougrati; Morocco’s Supreme Court; the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ); and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) co-hosted the 1st Regional Conference of African Women Judges. From October 10 to 12, in commemoration of Morocco’s National Women’s Day, African women judges met in Fez to discuss “Social and Professional Guarantees of Women Judges in Africa.”
The goals of the conference were to:
- Promote the rights of women judges in Africa.
- Exchange best practices, challenges, and experiences of women judges in Africa.
- Help eradicate prejudices.
- Put an end to discriminatory laws in the profession.
- Advance gender-sensitive courts.
- Promote human rights in relation to:
• The fight against corruption.
• Discrimination in the workplace.
• The guarantee of social rights to women judges.
- Define a global and integrated approach to tackle these issues with the participation of all judicial actors, stakeholders, and civil society.
IAWJ member, Justice Imane El Malki told L’Economiste.com that the goal of the conference was to promote and share Morocco’s judicial system with countries in the region. Morocco’s first female judge was appointed in 1961 and “today, women represent more than 16% of the judges of the Prosecutor General’s Office and nearly 25% of the judges of the Kingdom.”
Moreover, Justice El Malki stated that it was an occasion to celebrate the accomplishments of Moroccan women in achieving and protecting equal rights, as well as an opportunity to exchange experiences and good practices among women judges
IAWJ President, Judge Vanessa Ruiz gave remarks at the opening ceremony together with the Hon. Mina Sougrati; the Hon. Mustapha Fares, Chief Justice of Morocco’s Supreme Court; IDLO’s Director of Programs, Erwin van der Borght; Sally Shatila Kader, President of the International Federation for Peace & Sustainable Development; and other representatives of the Moroccan Judiciary.
The educational sessions included debates on The gender approach in African judicial systems; African women judges and the governance of justice; and Family constraints and job obligations.
Cultural activities were combined with the educational sessions to allow those present to experience Moroccan music, food, and customs.
Participants included 56 international judges from 30 different countries and 150 Moroccan judges.
Attendees were largely comprised of IAWJ members, including the majority of the Board of Directors. Members of the Board were also in Fez for their second meeting of the Board, which was organized by Judge Mina Sougrati and the UMWJ.
Moreover, the Hon. Binta Nyako (Nigeria) and the Hon. Robyn Tupman (Australia), Board members, were speakers at the conference. Both spoke about their countries’ judiciaries and experiences. Judge Mina Sougrati was a moderator for one of the sessions.
IAWJ member and President of the IAWJ Kenya Chapter, the Hon. Agnes Murgor told IDLO that “if we don’t create some form of parity in the way in which we have judicial officers across the justice system, we will find that at the end of the day, women will be left behind.”
“A key consensus emerging from the symposium was the notion that ensuring women’s participation in the justice sector yields benefits for all. It is not just a matter of principle and equal rights between men and women, but crucial to the success of a society,” states IDLO.
The conference concluded with the Declaration of Fez, in which participants committed, among other things:
- To create a regional network of women judges to continue sharing best practices and experiences of African women judges, encourage communication among judges and strengthen judicial independence to promote women’s rights.
- To promote the improvement of the social status of women judges.
- To promote the implementation of guarantees and safeguards that eliminate bias and discrimination against women judges.
- To create a monitoring mechanism for the status of women judges in Africa.