Accra, Ghana, February 13, 2020//- “I was engulfed in a stinking marital problem and I needed to get out but almost all the lawyers I approached told me I have to wait for two years before I could file for divorce and the marriage was three months old at that time”.
By chance legal education
Then I told myself that if I have to wait, then I will go to the law school and handle my own divorce case”. This is what pushed Lawyer Mary Ohenewaa Afull to become a lawyer.
Narrating her life story to African Eye Report, she said: “It took me five years for my legal education and the call to the Ghana Bar from 2005 to 2010. But I filed the first divorce petition in 2012, it got stuck, I got depressed as docket got missing from the law firm of a colleague lawyer who was handling it for me.
I took a break and focused on my law career and I finally filed it myself in 2016 and handled the entire case myself, that is I was the same lawyer in my own case”.
“This has been the journey to my legal education so far. I never dreamt of becoming a lawyer, I only wanted to be on TV when I grow up and enjoyed watching older women on TV when I was a child”, Lawyer Afful confidently stated.
Although she didn’t face any challenge growing up, she recounted that her mother had her premature and embarked on divorce soon as she was born.
“Whilst growing up, anytime my siblings and I visited our father, he will tell us all the torture he put my mother through and making my mother to have a premature baby which was me. He would cry with us and tell us how sorry he felt”, Lawyer Afful said.
She continued: “My mother on the other hand remarried when I was two years and we have all lived with our step father and both of them are still alive just that my father passed out when I was age 20”.
“So I must confess that I grew up as an emotional child and got glued to my books all the time. My mother provided everything that I needed that I never lacked anything growing up. And I always share with my friends the things I have”.
Things rather turned sour when she also married at age 24 and she came face to face with marital abuse that fortunately or unfortunately, shaped her career into a strong feminist activist and a human rights advocate.
She did not allow these setbacks to dampen her spirit but went ahead to set up her own law firm called Mary Ohenewaa Advocacy & Law Consult.
She has an advocacy programme dubbed “Ohenewaa Human Rights Advocacy” that entails a list of advocacy activities geared towards shaping and affecting society in a very positive way.
Furthermore, Lawyer Afful is using the law to fight for women’s rights especially, women in marital distress and also fight for the ordinary people and the suffering masses who can’t afford legal services.
“My career is rather the challenging aspect of my life right now where I can’t get resources or any support anywhere to help advocate for the rights of the ordinary person because I believe that many of such legal problems can be avoided when the masses receive some form of prior legal advice or knowledge”, she said.
Legacy she wants to leave behind
Lawyer Afful doesn’t really see herself as a legal practitioner any more. But rather, she want to be noted for as a human rights advocate and a feminist activist championing the rights of women and children as well as fighting for the human rights of the ordinary people who are gullible and vulnerable and do not have the voice to speak out for their rights on issues engulfing and affecting them.
“I also want to leave a legacy of helping fight against all forms of abuse in the country through my nationwide advocacy programmes as well as being a media legal resource person on human rights and women’s rights issues in Ghana, Africa and beyond”.
What is next for?
The affable lawyer is looking at ensuring that her human rights advocacy programmes must be available everywhere in every locality on radio, TV, schools, markets, lorry stations, among others.
We must help the ordinary person, school children, market women, lorry drivers etc know their basic fundamental human rights and freedoms as well as their legal rights and responsibilities so that they can assert their rights.
The human rights advocacy must also help them prevent cases of abuse by knowing well in advance the punishments/ jail terms associated with acts of criminality so that we can prevent many people most especially the youth from getting themselves locked up in jail.
“Our prisons are even overcrowded so I want to focus more on preventive crime, prior legal advice by way of mass education to the general public”, the pretty Lawyer Afful added.
Having worked for the past 11 years as lawyer, an advocate and an activist in human rights and feminist activism, and having written several books published and unpublished, this is her ultimate dream comes true.
Lawyer Afful just wants to keep building on this dream and expand to other areas of life by giving mass education to the public by way of human rights advocacy. This is obviously what she believes strongly she will be doing for now and the rests of her life.
No intention of going into politics
She has no such desires and intentions of going into partisan politics. Explaining: “I left politics in 2015 and I made a determination never to ever indulge myself in any political activity.
I have single handedly built a very good advocacy programme through hard work, nothing else but hard work and I do not intend to involve any form of politics in my advocacy career”.
She prefers to operate on the basis of the frustrations and issues affecting the ordinary people and the suffering masses by providing an avenue to educate them free without any government or political interference.
“However, should any politician approach me to support or sponsor my various human rights activities, I will gladly receive such support for the betterment of the affected persons and to reach out to the larger community but without necessarily associating myself with the political party”, according to her.
Advice to the youth
Lawyer Afful used the opportunity to encourage youth to be hard working, stressing that; “there’s no short cut to success. Using fraudulent ways to make money will only lead them to face criminal sanctions”.
They must also identify their passion and work towards it. Because doing your passion in your chosen field is always the best. They should also inculcate the habit in thinking. Most young people are unable to use their thinking caps and expect artificial ways of solving all forms of problems”.
List of Ohenewaa Human Rights Advocacy Programmes
Lawyer Afful has embarked on several human rights advocacy and charity programmes in the country. These include:-Free Books Distribution: Laws on Domestic and Sexual Violence & Cycle of Abuse to preschools and Senior High Schools (SHSs).
She is also embarking on an advocacy tour in tertiary institutions on talks on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms which she believes strongly that students at that level should know basic human rights education and free speech without necessarily becoming a lawyer.
They can know such areas of the law in order to assert their rights at the highest levels of their education in the communities that they find themselves, she stressed.
Additionally, Lawyer Afful has taken field advocacies on marital abuse and torture to the media, churches, markets/lorry stations, communities, among others.
She again has made donations to female inmates in prisons, children’s homes and shelters in some communities.
She holds Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the University of London, UK, and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.
Lawyer Afful did the Professional Law Course at the Ghana School of Law and was called to the Ghana Bar on 16th April, 2010.
She has worked in notable law firms such as Lither Brew and Co., Painstil, Painstil and Co., Solomon and Associates, among others before setting up her own law firm.
Lawyer Afful specializes in Human Rights Advocacy, Matrimonial, Legal Consulting in Business and Investment Advice, Property Acquisition and Documentation, Immigration and Debt Recovery.
By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh