Betty Mould-Iddrisu wants reforms in Ghana’s legal education
Ghana’s First Female Attorney General and former Minister of Education Betty Mould-Iddrisu has described the current state of legal education in Ghana as archaic and has called for a drastic review to keep it out of the control of the Chief Justice and others.
Betty Mould-Iddrisu, Ghana’s first female Attorney General & Education Minister
She reiterated the need for a general review of the legal education system in Ghana to make it responsive to modern trends. This, according to her, should be done urgently since it is long-overdue.
“Even though I have been the Chief State Attorney and had worked almost all my life at the Ministry of Justice, I am shocked at the archaic regulatory nature of our legal education,” she revealed.
Betty Mould further mentioned in an interview monitored by African Editors that she appreciates the thinking of subsequent Chief Justices in trying to keep the integrity of Ghanaian lawyers but however, she does not agree with the way it is being done.
“I just think that it is over time for a real change. There was only one School of Law when I became Attorney General and there had been frantic attempts to open it up and it was during my time that two other schools of law opened and since then nothing. Meanwhile, there are many faculties of law currently in Ghana.” Madam Mould-Iddrisu stated
Legal education in Ghana has in recent times come under serious criticisms especially over entrance examinations and qualification into the Ghana School of Law. Many lawyers and reputable civil society organizations have advocated for expansion of access to professional legal education to admit the growing number of qualified students.
It was reported that question papers for the Ghana School of Law entrance examination which was scheduled for 23 September, 2022 had been leaked and circulated on social media hours before the examination, resulting in the postponement of the said paper.
The former University of Ghana School of Law Intellectual Property Law Lecturer noted that there are thousands of students who are willing to get access to professional legal education which has worryingly led to the payment of money by some law students to see exams questions.
“This should be able to convince our Lordship the Chief Justice that something radical needs to be done quite differently and actually the Chief Justice and others who are controlling should not be the ones. They should be very off hand and there should be a completely different approach to legal education” the former law lecturer and education minister emphasised.
Profile of Betty Mould-Iddrisu
Betty Nah-Akuyea Mould-Iddrisu, born 22 March 1953 is a Ghanaian Lawyer and politician. Aa a member of the National Democratic Congress, she was Minister for Education in Ghana from 2011 to 2012, after serving as Ghana’s first female Attorney General and Minister of Justice from 2009 to 2011. Prior to politics, she had been the Head of Legal and Constitutional Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. She was also a Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law at the University of Ghana School of Law for 12 years.
She obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Law (L.L.B) from University of Ghana, Legon between 1973 and 1976. Her academic qualifications include a Master’s Degree gained in 1978 from the London School of Economics.
In 2003, Mould-Iddrisu was appointed Director of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division of the Commonwealth Secretariat, an inter-governmental organisation comprising 53 member states based in London.
Some of the highlights of her time at the Secretariat include overseeing implementation of mandates in the area of transnational crime, counter terrorism and international humanitarian law. She oversaw the implementation of the Secretariats programmes on anti-corruption, asset recovery and judicial ethics.
In addition, she implemented diverse legal program’s through judicial reforms, legislative drafting and building capacity in the legal field in the Commonwealth amongst others.
She has given advice to Heads of States, Ministers and she is frequently called upon to give high level advice to governments, politicians and civil society. She also advises member states in the areas of international law, constitutional law, human rights and organizes high level ministerial and senior officials meetings. She headed the Secretariat Team of the Electoral Observer Group to the 2006 Ugandan Elections.
She acts as In-house-Chief legal adviser to the Secretary General and Secretariat. In that capacity she manages a team of lawyers from diverse backgrounds and is responsible for managing her divisional budget and sourcing for extra budgetary resources. She also assists the Secretary General and his two Deputies in management of the Secretariat and represents the secretariat at Tribunals and Courts.
It is important to anchor the point that between 1990 and 2000, at a time she was fulfilling her duties at the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat, she taught at the Law Faculty of University of Ghana, also publishing various papers and articles on intellectual property.
Global Expert in Intellectual Property Law
Pioneer African Woman in Law
Betty Mould-Iddrisu was born March 22, 1953, in Accra, the capital town of Ghana. Her mother was originally from Ejuratia – Kwabre in the Ashanti Region and her father was from James Town, Accra, Ghana. During her years of secondary education, Mould-Iddrisu attended Achimota School, Ghana International School, and Accra Academy. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s in Law from the Faculty of Law (LLB), University of Ghana, Legon between the years of 1973-1976. She obtained her Master’s degree in Law from the London School of Economics (LLM) in London, UK in 1978; she returned to the Ghana School of Law and was called to the Ghanaian Bar in 1979.
In 2009, Mould-Iddrisu was sworn in as the first female Attorney-General and Minister of Justice in Ghana. Prior to that, Betty Mould-Iddrisu, after her call to the Ghana Bar, from the early 1980s, became an active member of the Ghana branch of the International Federation of Lawyers (FIDA), a lawyers’ association exclusively for women. Mould-Iddrisu held several executive positions in FIDA-Ghana and in 1986 assisted in the establishment of Ghana’s first Legal Aid Centre, comprising a legal aid clinic and a legal literacy center. This was a response to the passage of family laws passed by the Government in 1985 designed to give women and children a share of the estate of their deceased spouse and father’s property upon death intestate. She rose through the ranks of the FIDA-Ghana Executive to chair both the FIDA-Ghana (1994-96) and the FIDA-Africa group (1996- 98). Her time as Chair was characterized by legal representation of women in court, research, legal literacy, legal advocacy, grassroots sensitization of women leaders at the local levels. FIDA-Ghana over the years became a household name in terms of women lawyers volunteering their knowledge, support & advocacy for the rights of indigent women.
In the course of her career, there has been no shortage of actions and positions held by Mould- Iddrisu. These include: State Attorney at the Ghanaian Ministry of Justice, a position she held rising to the rank of Chief State Attorney; She headed the International Law Division at the Ministry of Justice; She was appointed Copyright Administrator of Ghana in 1989; She led the Administration of Authors’ Rights at the African Regional level; She rose to be an acknowledged global expert in Intellectual Property Law ( her field of specialization) throughout her career representing Ghana and Africa as a speaker, expert, resource person, chair, consultant to the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) & other multilateral agencies.
She pioneered the institution of the teaching of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in 1990 at the University of Ghana’s Faculty of Law as a final year elective and taught IPR’s herself for ten years until the year 2000, mentoring hundreds of lawyers in IP; She led the Ministry of Justice’s International Law division; She was appointed as the Director of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs division of the UK based Commonwealth Secretariat in 2003 (The Commonwealth Secretariat is an intergovernmental multilateral organization which aims to achieve democracy, justice, and peace for its 55 member countries).
During her time as the head of the Ministry of Justice’s International Law division in 1997, Mould- Iddrisu’s responsibilities included more than just holding a title, she was also equipped to effect real change. Mould-Iddrisu implemented Ghana’s international legal obligations by handling both national and regional responses to issues of global human rights. For example, she cooperated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ECOWAS & the African Union in enforcing the rights of women and children, establishing human trafficking protocols, and amendment of cross-border legislation to deal with the rising threat of terrorism. She also assisted with the African Union to ensure ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in Africa and helped to promote international humanitarian law in concert with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
In 1999, Mould-Iddrisu co-founded the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) and chaired the organization for many years to concretize her vision of networking for the passage of gender- responsive laws across Africa to engender issues of patriarchy, domestic violence & sexual abuse, engendering, and advocating for the passage of legislation of a woman’s right to own property amongst others, and affirming spousal rights to property acquired within marriage. AWLA still exists in several African countries as a civil rights organization that tackles gender advocacy issues for the timely and effective delivery of justice for women and children. AWLA-Ghana is still active and still works in sensitizing women in the law, law enforcement, and the courts to issues of domestic violence and other gender-sensitive legislation.
In 2003, Mould-Iddrisu was appointed as Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Legal and Constitutional Division. She served as in-house counsel and advisor on an array of legal issues to Presidents, Heads of States, Ministers of Justice, Attorneys-General, Senior Law Officials, governments, and politicians. She also developed policy and program development for the promotion of Law and Governance issues, global responses to constitutional matters & reform, implementing international law mandates in the area of gender, private international law, international law, intellectual property law, and multilateral trade issues. Her career achievements stretch far beyond the positions she had or the titles she held. They include the impact she has had on the people through her life-long support and mentoring of lawyers and organizations with which she shared her knowledge across Africa and indeed globally.
Betty Mould-Iddrisu, when she was appointed as the first female Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Ghana in 2009, used her time leading the Ministry to initiate reforms by streamlining the work at the Ministry, building the capacity of the state attorneys at a national & international level, expanding and building up capacity in the regional offices and the prosecutions division. She also championed the expansion of legal education in Ghana by assisting to establish more law schools in the country – remarkably this remains the only expansion that professional law has seen in decades in terms of capacity. In 2010, she also laid two groundbreaking Bills in Parliament seeking to operationalize constitutional provisions on the distribution of assets acquired during marriage upon dissolution of marriage and the other was a review of the Intestate Succession Law seeking to give spouses and children a greater share of property upon death intestate. These two Bills were testimony to her lifelong fight for engendering the rights of women through the law.
Throughout her career, Mould-Iddrisu pursued the advancement and empowerment of Ghanaian women through grassroots programs that placed a focus on women and children in the areas of judicial reform, justice, and dispute resolution. She fought against gender-based violence and was a leading member of Ghana’s Domestic Violence Coalition which lobbied for the passage of Ghana’s Domestic Violence Law finally passed in 2007.
Betty Mould-Iddrisu, the pioneer, used what she had to propel herself to a position in which she could enact the change she saw fit and when she got to where she wanted to, she did not stop. She used her diverse ethnic background and experiences to represent a multitude of people in government and to present many perspectives. This made her a valuable asset to national, regional, and international organizations. Mould-Iddrisu started her career at the Ministry of Justice but continued to expand and extend to fields which at one time were out of the reach of many African women and achieved in areas that had hitherto been the preserve of men. She pioneered the teaching of a new legal field in Ghana. She was the first female Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Ghana.
She facilitated international cooperation, fought for the empowerment of women and children, and advised on regional and international policies, and pursued policies and programs for the benefit of her country. Betty Mould-Iddrisu’s impact on governance in Ghana, as well as globally, has been and will always remain virtually important.