Meet Annie Ruth Baeta; Ghana’s first female lawyer and judge

Mohammed Awal Jan 5, 2020 at 04:00pm

January 05, 2020 at 04:00 pm | History

Mohammed Awal

Mohammed Awal

January 05, 2020 at 04:00 pm | History

Image source: Wikimedia

Annie Ruth Baeta was Ghana’s first female lawyer and judge born in Lome, French Togoland in 1918. 

She attended Achimota College and later continued at the London School of Economics and Political Science where she studied law.

A daughter of teachers, Baeta was said to be ubiquitous and fierce, refusing to be intimidated by her male colleagues during her sojourn at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

She would go on to graduate and receive her LBB in 1949 and called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn the following year.

An Ewe, Baeta, was one of eight children sired to Henrietta Baëta and Presbyterian minister, Robert Domingo Baëta. The Baetas are a notable family in Ghana.

Baeta’s older brother, Christian was an academic and Presbyterian minister who was elected the Synod Clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of the Gold Coast from 1945 to 1949, according to Ghanaian Museum. Christian was said to be instrumental in the establishment of Ghana’s foremost higher institution of learning – the University of Ghana, Legon in 1948.

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.

Baeta’s legal career would further progress with her appointment to the Court of Appeal in 1969, becoming its president in 1980, a position she held until her retirement in 1983.

Very instrumental in the drafting of a document on the elimination of discrimination against women, an important precursor to the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Baeta served on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and chairing it in 1968. 

She was also said to be a member of Dr. Boutros-Boutros Ghali’s advisory group appointed to plan the Fourth World Conference on Women.

Again, Baeta 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. Baeta was instrumental in shaping the WCC’s tough attitude against the injustice of apartheid in South Africa.

According to Ghana Museum, from 1993 until her death, Baeta served on Ghana’s Council of State. 

She died on 12 June 1996 in Accra. 

The Justice Annie Jiagge Memorial Lectures were established by the Ministry of Women and Children in 2009 in recognition of her role as a trailblazer in the legal profession in Ghana.

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