Women judges from other African nations have challenged their colleagues from Kenya and Tanzania to ensure they are nominated to the East African Court of Justice (EACJ).
During a discussion on women leadership in the Judiciary at a conference of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) on May 19, Uganda’s Supreme Court judge Stella Arach questioned why all Kenyan judges nominated to the regional court have only been men since the formation of the court in November 2001.
“I served there for seven years but I have discovered that out of the 10 judges, nine are all male and I was the only female.
"This is a wake-up call to our sisters in Kenya and Tanzania to watch out for this position because their countries keep on sending male names in the two slots allocated for each country,” she said.
Lady Justice Arach was appointed Judge of EACJ in June 2006.
She was made the Deputy Principal Judge of the First Instance Division of that court in November 2008.
The discussion had been ignited by presentations from various countries on the judiciary journeys from their jurisdictions and the participation of women.
It emerged that countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, Mozambique and Lesotho have notably high representation of women judges even in core leadership positions within the judiciaries.
In Nigeria for instance, both the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice are women.
ALUOCH'S ICC POST
Kenya’s Judiciary dates back 120 years since its inception but it had no women in its leadership until 1969 when the first woman to be sworn in as a magistrate was also appointed a pioneer judge in 1983.
Her name was Lady Justice Effie Owuor.
She became the first magistrate 82 years after the inception of the Judiciary in 1897.
Years later, she was followed by judges Joyce Alouch who was in 2015 elected Vice President of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
FIRST WOMAN JUDGE
The others were Kakamega High Court’s Ruth Sitati, Nairobi Court of Appeal’s Roselyn Nambuye and Mary Ang’awa as well as Sarah Ondeyo Omolo.
Both Ang’awa and Omolo are now retired.
The six consequently became the first women judges to serve in various High Courts together with Justice Jessie Lessit.
Justice Effie also became the first and only woman judge of the Court of Appeal in 1998 until nine years later when Justice Alouch joined her.
DEPUTY CHIEF JUSTICE
In 2012, two years after the promulgation of the Kenya Constitution, Judge Nambuye, Wanjiru Karanja, Martha Koome, Kalpana Rawal and Hannah Okwengu were also appointed to the Court of Appeal.
Lady Justice Rawal, now retired, later succeeded Lady Justice Nancy Barasa as Deputy Chief Justice.
In 2014, Lady Justices Philomena Mwilu, Agnes Murgor, Fatuma Sichale and Jamilla Mohammed were also appointed to the Appellate Court.
Today, Lady Justice Mwilu is serving as Deputy CJ.
Lady Justice Nambuye, who last year attempted to clinch the Chief Justice position unsuccessfully, said the appointment of women judges and magistrates has been slow over the years.
This, she said, has reduced the pool from which to have them selected.
She challenged her colleagues to keep building the leadership pillar through discipline and commitment.