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Republic of Ghana’s Chief Justice Georgina Wood speaks at Cascade Campus

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PCC’s Cascade Campus had the opportunity to host a high-ranking foreign dignitary on Nov. 2 when Georgina Wood, the chief justice of the Republic of Ghana, paid a visit.

Chief Justice Wood shares her thoughts with the gathering. To her right is Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Adrienne Nelson.

Chief Justice Wood shares her thoughts with the gathering. To her right is Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Adrienne Nelson.

Chief Justice Wood spoke to a luncheon gathering of African American women leaders, scholars, and students from the Portland area about her personal story, her experience as a leader in a male-dominated field, and the work she has participated in to strengthen the Ghanaian judiciary. Her visit to PCC was part of a trip to Oregon to participate in the University of Oregon’s African American Workshop and Lecture Series.

The Royal Rosarians, Portland’s ceremonial welcome committee, escorted Her Ladyship to the luncheon and read an official proclamation in her honor. She was joined on a panel of mostly African American women leaders by Cascade Campus President Karin Edwards; Judge Adrienne Nelson of the Multnomah County Circuit Court; Antoinette Edwards, head of the city’s Office of Youth Violence Prevention; and Portland First Lady Nancy Hales.

Chief Justice Wood is the first woman to occupy Ghana’s highest judicial office, a post she has held since 2007. Much of this time, she said, has been occupied with extensive reforms of her country’s judicial system.

“We have had to work on our infrastructure, our system, on the preparedness of our judges, on the criteria for selection to the bench,” Wood said. “We have made integrity the highest criterion, and we have removed justices who have shown a lack of integrity. In order to do this, we needed the support of the judiciary, of the legislature, and of the people.”

She also took the opportunity to acknowledge the assistance provided by the United States in the Ghanaian judicial reform effort. She and her compatriots have worked directly with U.S. judges and judicial officials, and have emulated best practices in their ongoing work to make Ghana’s judiciary fairer and more transparent.

“The U.S. continues to be a great friend of Ghana,” she said.

As the highest-ranking woman in Ghana’s government, Justice Wood said she has had the pleasure of seeing many women step into positions of leadership in her country, a reflection of the changing role of women across West Africa.

“Women in Ghana are occupying more and more positions in government,” she said. “Women are drivers of the economy. Ghanaian women make things happen.

“We have not given up the fight,” she added. “We encourage each other to achieve success in whatever we do.”