Karen Safo: The Change Agent Championing Inclusivity And Diversity Through The Bar

By Duchess Magazine

In a multicultural pluralistic world devoid of tenets of equity and fairness, where sterotyping, prejudice and discrimination against people from minority ethnic backgrounds take prominence, the legal umbrella stands as a defense, helping break down toxic cultures, delivering landmark judgements and upholding certain human rights concerns, thereby bolstering confidence in the justice system, strengthening minority rights and creating room for more inclusion.

Actively engaging the bar and championing inclusion within the international development sector is UK born Ghanaian Barrister and Human Rights activist, Karen Safo. With lens  focused on natural resource governance and the development of African states, her interest was sparked during a visit to her ancestral village – Kokofu Asaman in Ghana. There, she stumbled upon vital information which would change her life and that of many others forever; an abundance of cocoa just laid bare, glistening in the sun, perplexed she wondered why with an abundance of natural resources like cocoa and gold, Ghana bares tag “developing country?” Karen dug deeper and landed findings, child slave labour and unequal bargaining power between the west and the African continent contributes a great deal to unfair trade and various ineffective policies. Not just content with answers, she wanted to do more to help, she decided to study law in order to qualify as a Barrister and specialise in cases relating to international claims and public international law. Today she’s proudly a reckonable voice in the fight against minorities.

Karen Safo’s road to success wasn’t smooth, but determined, the go-getter pushed right through hurdles; Raised by a single parent, the top lawyer learned the virtues of tenacity firsthand.  Path found, she commenced the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) to become a Barrister. Her grandfather who was sick at the time agreed he would pay the £20,000 tuition fees, super grateful she opted  for BPTC part-time in order to pay her living expenses whilst her grandfather paid the initial 10,000 payment for the first year.

But fate had other plans, her grandfather passed on, with only limited funds to pay for her second year tuition fees, Karen decided to do the only reasonable thing she could; take a year out and raise the funds. Casting her mind back she recalls – “Many of the scholarships that were available, I was ineligible to apply because I had already commenced the BPTC. I had to then take a second job at Accessorize and a third, housekeeping in Loreal offices in order to secure the money for my second year of the BPTC. It was tough, I was burnt out, I developed severe anxiety and was demotivated. But I still pressed on, I knew that this was my purpose deep deep down in the midst of the financial and personal hardship. This in hindsight has developed my resilience, patience and perseverance and I am so glad I was able to build up my character. All necessary for a successful career at the Bar.”

Some of her greatest accomplishments include; Setting up Youth Development Ghana at the age of 16. Being a ball girl at the Wimbledon Championships. Receiving the UCLA fellowship award for her services to human rights, Future of Ghana 30 under 30, Setting up the BAME group at Save The Children International, while there she created and Co-Chaired the group Mosaic, a group promoting diversity and inclusion of BAME groups within the NGO sector.

Karen Safo is a recipient of the Deans fellowship awards and has written articles about inclusion and diversity with the Congressional Black Caucus in the USA, the Voice amongst others. She has also appeared on panel discussions at Bloomberg, Leigh Day, the Women in Dev Conference in London to name but a few.

Karen with vast experience in the international development sector, holds a post-graduate degree from SOAS.

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