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Effie Owuor: Meet Kenya’s First Female High Court Judge

  • Effie Owuor was the very first woman in the country to become a magistrate

The judiciary has come a long way in terms of gender equality. Long before Kenya fully embraced female judges and magistrates, the profession was dominated by males.

Effie Owuor was the very first woman in the country to become a magistrate and to be appointed judge in the court of appeal, first woman to graduate with Law from Dar es Salaam University and first woman judge. 

With a judicial career spanning over three decades, she presided over numerous succession, criminal and family cases. 

Here is her story as told WoK.

Background and Education 

Born in 1943 in Kakamega, Effie is an alumni of Butere Girls High School and Alliance Girls High School. She graduated from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1967. At the time, it was the only university offering law in East Africa. 


In 1967, she joined the attorney general’s chambers as a state counsel. She then became the first female magistrate in Kenya in 1970 and four years later rose to senior magistrate. 

Following her appointment by late retired president Daniel Moi to the high court of Kenya, she became the first woman to sit on the bench. 

Together with Chunilal Madan and Cecil Miller, she was appointed to the judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the corruption allegations levelled against the late former attorney general Charles Njonjo.

Later, she was appointed the goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and then chair of the task force on laws relating to women. The task force is credited with the passing of the 2006 sexual offenses act. 

The professional lawyer served as a commissioner on the Kenya Law Reform Commission until 2000. 

After she was named in Aaron Ringera’s report which sought to investigate the judiciary, she retired. During the reign of the late Hon. Mwai Kibaki was nominated to serve at the International Criminal Court in 2006. However, this nomination was foiled after the Ringera report was mentioned. 

While she continues to chair the sexual offenses task force, she retired from court in 2008. 


The former magistrate was married with six children. She lost her husband, and at one point, found herself nearly a victim of the Luo culture of wife inheritance. As she refused to be inherited, she said that those wanting to inherit wives are only interested in misusing the wealth of the dead husband.