Monday, 7 October 2013

Remembering The Late Justice Annie Jiagge

Today is the 95th anniversary of the birth of the Late Justice Mrs Annie Ruth Jiagge, the first woman in Ghana - and indeed, in the (British) Commonwealth - to be appointed a High Court judge.

In October 2008, an event to commemorate the 90th anniversary of her birth was held in Dublin. Below, we reproduce the piece written to mark that occasion.

The Late Justice Annie Ruth Jiagge

Celebrating the Life and Memory of a Remarkable African Woman

She was well-known to former President Mary Robinson but the name Justice Annie Ruth Jiagge might not mean anything or much to people in Ireland; perhaps not even those involved in the Women’s Movement.
Yet, the late Justice Annie Jiagge, Ghana’s first woman High Court judge, was instrumental in the UN’s first document on Women’s Rights, the Draft Declaration on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, also referred to as CEDAW, which she co-authored and which was first adopted on 7 November, 1967, by the General Assembly.
Image Source: World Council of Churches

Born on the 7th of October, 1918, the late Justice Annie Ruth Jiagge (née Baeta) entered the legal profession after a career in education. She was appointed to the High Court on the 15th of September, 1961. Indeed, she was the first ever woman High Court judge appointed in the (British) Commonwealth.
Justice Annie Jiagge’s legal career progressed with her appointment to the Court of Appeal in 1969, becoming its president in 1980, a position she held until her retirement in 1983.

On the international scene, Justice Jiagge served on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and chairing it in 1968. She was a member of Dr Boutros-Boutros Ghali’s advisory group appointed to plan the Fourth World Conference on Women.

She was a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which she served for over 44 years, becoming the first African woman President when she was elected by the 5th assembly at Nairobi in 1975. She was elected Moderator (Chair) of its Commission on the Programme to Combat Racism. Justice Jiagge was instrumental in shaping the WCC’s tough attitude against the injustice of apartheid in South Africa.

Justice Annie Jiagge was a founding member of the Women’s World Banking, an organisation aimed at granting women access to credit and which her fellow Ghanaian, the late Dr Esther Ocloo, was the first chair.

While a student in London, Annie Baeta had participated in the activities of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). She was made a Member of the Executive Committee of the World YWCA soon after joining it, and eventually Vice-President. In her own country in Ghana, she found time outside her legal career and was instrumental in founding the National Women’s Council and the YWCA.

Annie Jiagge also kept her interest in education. She served on the Council of the University of Ghana at Legon for twelve years and was a member of the Administrative and Management Committee of the Ghana Academy of Sciences.

The late Justice Annie Jiagge was only one of the many African women who have made their contributions in their own countries, as well as in the international domain.

Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, who was appointed Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations in January, 2006, is the first woman Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation of the Republic of Tanzania.

Judge Akua Kuenyehia from Ghana is currently the First Vice-President, International Criminal Court in The Hague, while Former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was in Ireland earlier this year [2008], is now the Managing Director of the World Bank.

As we mark the 30th anniversary next year [2009] of the final adoption of CEDAW at the 34th Session of the General Assembly, perhaps highlighting the achievements and strengths of African women on the 90th anniversary of the late Justice Annie Jiagge’s birth would be appropriate?

It is also important that we continue to identify, acknowledge and celebrate other African women achievers by bringing their stories to the rest of the world.

Justice Mrs Annie Ruth Jiagge died on the 12th of June, 1996.


  1. thank you very much for this. the world needs to know about women such as this powerful one

  2. It's very important to know things like these. Am at a conference organized by the Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy, University of Ghana, Legon. Clearly roles played by women like Justice Annie Jiagge influenced people like Mrs Stephanie Baeta Ansah, her niece. One cannot over emphasize the roles of female academics like Prof Florence Dolphyne the first female pro vice chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof Akosua Adomako Ampofo, Prof Irene Odotei,(former directors of Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana Legon) Prof Awura Ama Addy (to mention a few) influencing academia and policy in Ghana and Africa as a whole.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Lydia.

      If you are interested in a document I put together on African women, please, send me your email contact.