A conference on Gender and the Judiciary in Africa kicked off on Monday in Tanzania, aimed at addressing legal barriers for women in African countries.
Poverty levels in Africa was locking out women from accessing judicial services, said Tanzanian Vice President, Samia Suluhu Hassan at the three-day conference, which is jointly organized by the Judiciary of Tanzania and the World Bank Group. Hassan appealed to the Chief Justices and Lawyers from 51 countries in Africa to expedite cases facing women and children to ensure justice. “Women and children are the ones who bear the brunt of dragging of cases on the continent, I urge you to fast track such trials in a bid of helping them to get justice,” said Hassan, urging justices to review the laws governing the welfare of women and children to ensure that they serve the right purposes when the two are faced with judicial hurdles. “They (women and children) grapple with a lot of issues, from rape offenses to probate cases, it is, therefore, prudent to ensure that the existing laws work to their advantage,” she said. “Equal access to justice is an integral part of human development and poverty eradication and is a fulcrum for a human rights-based approach to economic development,” said Ibrahim Juma, Tanzania’s Chief Justice. “To ensure the trust in, and effectiveness of, any judicial system, the judiciary needs to broadly reflect the racial and gender composition of a country,” said Sandie Okoro, World Bank Senior Vice President, and Group General Counsel. According to Okoro, without true access to justice for women, the cycle of poverty will be perpetuated and women and girls will not have a chance to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.”