hon slyvia istorically women were perceived as being incapable of studying law, let alone being judicial officers. So, being on the bench breaks that myth.

Women Judges Matter: Meet Hon Justice Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba from Zimbabwe

Hon Justice Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba is a lawyer by training, holding three degrees: a Bachelor of Laws with Honours, a Master of Science in International Legal Studies from the University of Zimbabwe and an LLM from the American University Washington College of Law. Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba has worked in private practice, civil society and in academia.

“Previously, I also worked as an independent consultant on Gender and Women’s Rights” she says.

hon slyvia zimbabweSlyvia Chirawu- Mugomba is also a published author. Currently, however, she is a judge at the High Court of Zimbabwe to which she was appointed on 14 December 2017.

I used to sit in the family law court, and now, I am in the civil division” says Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba.

Soon, however, Mugomba will be moving to the newly established commercial court. In August 2021, she was appointed chairperson of the Council for Legal Education, a statutory body that oversees legal education in Zimbabwe. A chairperson has to be a sitting judge.

One reason Hon Justice Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba decided to become a judge, she says, was that she was inspired by the current Deputy Chief Justice, once the national coordinator of Women and Law in Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter. This is a post that Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba herself got to occupy between 2001-2017.

“I was inspired by how she successfully made the transition from civil society to the bench, she says. Another person who inspired me greatly was a female high court judge that used to be in academia.”

Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba also says that she felt that she could make a significant contribution, given her experiences in civil society, academia, and private practice.

The 2013 constitution in Zimbabwe is strong on Gender Equality.

Being one of the female judges adds to that, Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba says. Historically women were perceived as being incapable of studying law, let alone being judicial officers. So, being on the bench breaks that myth. Another reason that women are important in the judiciary, is that women judges bring different perspectives to the bench, according to their experiences. They contribute to the development of the law as per S176 of the constitution of Zimbabwe. Female judges bring a culture of thoroughness and hard work.”

On equality in the courtroom, she says:

Equality is important in the courtroom because it ensures that all litigants who come before the court are treated equally. There is a need to integrate not only formal but substantive equality. These two aspects ensure that equality is not just spoken of but results in real equality.

Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba looks at her role as that of interpreting the law as guided by her constitutional responsibilities:

I have also contributed significantly to the development of jurisprudence in family and the law of succession including child rights, based on my experience in teaching at the university, she says. I am also on a quest to add to the development of common law and customary law.


Hon Justice Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba lives by many principles:

“No corruption. Ethics such as transparency and accountability as guided by the judicial code of ethics are key,” she underlines.

On the question of what she hopes to achieve in her role as a judge today, she says:

“I hope to leave a good legacy as having contributed to the development of the law in Zimbabwe and contributing to the protection of the rights as espoused in the constitution.”

She wants to be remembered as a judge who was fair, intelligent and committed to the attainment of justice:

“It is my wish that many of my judgments are reported in the law reports. I am glad to say that in my first year, i.e. 2018 of writing, eight of my judgments have made it to the 2018 volumes 1 and 2 of the Zimbabwe law reports.”

Hon Justice Slyvia Chirawu-Mugomba is looking forward to the 2019 reports:

“Long after I am gone, the legal profession will still be referring to them.”


Justice Sylvia Chirawu-Mugomba is the Chairperson the Council for Legal Education, an implementing partner for RWI in Zimbabwe. She is also one of the judges we engage with in moot court competitions.

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