Haja Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh (born April 16, 1949) is a Sierra Leonean lawyer who was the Chief Justice of Sierra Leone from 2008 to 2015.
She was born on April 16, 1949 and grew up in the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown to Muslim parents from the Fula ethnic group, originally from Koinadugu District in the north of Sierra Leone. Like her parents, Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh is also a Muslim. She is the older sister of Sierra Leonean diplomat Sulaiman Tejan-Jalloh. Jalloh’s mother was the President of the Sierra Leone National Fullah Women’s Association for twenty-six years; and her father served in the Freetown City Council.
She attended the Harford Secondary School for Girls in Moyamba, Moyamba District and the St. Edward’s Secondary School in Freetown. After her secondary education, she attended Sierra Leone’s Fourah Bay College and Njala University and got a Bachelor of Laws degree. In 1974, she got a scholarship to study at the prestigious Columbia University in New York, where she did her Master of Laws. She later continued her legal education at the University of London.
In 1975, she was appointed as a State Counsel in the Sierra Leone Ministry of Justice. She was later promoted to senior State Counsel and Principal State Council. In 1996 she was appointed as a High Court Judge, where she served until 2004, when she was appointed as a Court of Appeals Judge. She remained in that position until she was appointed as the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice in 2008.
She was sworn in as Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice on January 25, 2008, succeeding retired Chief Justice Ade Renner Thomas. She was the first woman to hold the Chief Justice position in Sierra Leone’s history
She proceeded on leave to retirement on 6 February 2015, with Valesius Thomas as acting Chief Justice, until finally being replaced by Abdulai Hamid Charm on 25 January 2016.
Haja Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh is a true pioneer woman in law. She was the first female Chief Justice in Sierra Leone and the third female appointed to run a judiciary in Africa. Tejan-Jalloh’s success is evidence of societal progress and commitment to a larger female presence in the legal field, and will hopefully pave the way for more pioneer women to come.