United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women
Tribute by the United Nations Secretary-General,
Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, on the occasion of the memorial for Mrs. Justice Annie Ruth Jiagge,
3 August 1996
I am honoured to pay a special tribute to Mrs. Justice Annie Ruth Jiagge, an inspiring advocate for women's rights, a close colleague and a friend.
Known internationally for her scholarship, her energy, her patience and a life devoted to public service, Mrs. Jiagge will long be remembered at the United Nations for the significant role she played in advancing the rights, status and role of women over a period of three decades from 1962 to 1996.
Judge Jiagge brought her great knowledge of the law and her deep understanding of the needs of women in the developing world to the work of the United Nations in the field of women's rights. As a leading member of the bar in Ghana, she was selected in 1962 to serve on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She was elected Rapporteur of the Commission in 1966 and was its President in 1968, when the twentieth anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was celebrated and the Declaration's impact reviewed.
For ten years she was a driving force on the Commission and helped to shape its programmes and develop its unwavering focus on women's rights. During this period, she employed her vision of full equal rights for all women in the shaping of the draft Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. This Declaration presaged the crowning achievement of the Commission's work in human rights law: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination again Women, adopted by the General Assembly in 1979. The single document set international norms and standards touching all aspects of the lives of women in every nation and every strata of society. It remains to this day the main instrument defining women's rights. The process required determination and ingenuity. Annie Jiagge had those attributes. Today, 155 Member States of the United Nations have ratified the Convention.
Always generous with her time and talents, Mrs. Justice Jiagge again answered the call to serve the cause of women and of the United Nations in 1993, when I personally requested her to be a member of my advisory group to plan the Fourth World Conference on Women. In guiding the preparations of the Conference, her colleagues and I had the benefit of her invaluable wisdom, her quiet sense of humour and her vast knowledge of legal and social issues facing women in Ghana, the continent of Africa, and the developing world. This Conference, held in Beijing in September 1995, was one of the more successful in a series of conferences held since 1992 around key sectoral themes. To our great regret, Mrs. Jiagge could not attend, owing to her poor state of health.
Mrs. Justice Annie Ruth Jiagge will be remembered around the world as an inspiring role model who helped transform dreams into reality. Even where her name has not been heard, her impact has been and will be felt. Generations of women in every class and corner of the world have much to thank her for. She leaves a broad, strong, deep and empowering legacy. We will miss her tremendously.