On May 2-5, 2012, more than 600 participants from 50 countries converged in London to attend one of the world’s most prestigious international judicial gatherings, the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) 11th Biennial International Conference. The last conference was held in Seoul, Korea in 2010.
For this year, I was one of the delegates from the Philippines, along with other women judges from Cebu and Manila.
The conference was hosted by the UK chapter of IAWJ and convened by IAWJ President, Lady Brenda Hale, with the theme: ‘Keeping safe, keeping well.” There were lively discussions on topics ranging from women, work and health, incarcerated women, human trafficking and forced marriage, sextortion, judicial health and safety, violence and the problem-solving court, services for victims of sexual violence, and women and girls as armed combatants.
In the Opening Ceremony, there was a roll call of member nations and the delegates stood up as their country they were representing was called. I was surprised that there were lady judges from Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The African nations were also well represented. The lady judges were welcomed by UK dignitaries: Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice, the Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Vice-President of the Law Society and the President of the Supreme Court.
There was a plenary session on Judicial Leadership on the third day of the conference. Evening events include concerts, cocktails and fellowships, Delegates also attended meetings of their regions where they elected their new regional representatives to the IAWJ’s Board of Directors.
The last day of the conference brought a Closing Keynote Speech by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, a former IAWJ member and former judge from South Africa.
It was capped by a Gala Dinner held at the lovely City of London Guildhall. Delegates were asked to wear their national dresses, so I came in my terno. The cavernous and majestic hall was reminiscent of the scenes of the Harry Potter movie. Trumpeters clad in medieval attire heralded the serving of the food and the important parts of the evening program. Lady Judges were served with delectable dishes and were entertained by world-class opera singers.
The next conference will be in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania in 2014. Delegates from Tanzania promised the IAWJ members that they will be in for a wonderful experience in their country and that they will arrange for an exciting safari trip for everyone.