Today we are celebrating 10 years of peace in Sierra Leone and also remembering all those who suffered during the 11 year long civil war and those who still feel the effects today. Sierra Leone has come a long way since AdvocAid started in 2006 but there are still many challenges, especially for the girls and women we work with.
Great news to begin the new year! Another woman (formerly on death row) has been discharged.
MSK was sentenced to death in 2007. Her conviction was overturned following an appeal by AdvocAid in 2009 and she had to undergo a retrial. An AdvocAid contracted lawyer managed to have her released on bail and she was at least able to be reunited with her family during the long trial process. Just before Christmas, she was discharged by the High Court.
Congratulations to the entire AdvocAid Legal Team (especially Lawyer Kamara) and thanks to the Death Penalty Project.
AdvocAid donated welfare items (such as toiletries) to women and their children in Freetown Female Prison. We gave each woman her own “lappa” (cloth) which can be used for clothing, as a blanket etc
We played some music and shared food, including fruit which is hardly part of the prison diet.
However, our Christmas welfare donations were made more complicated as the female prison population in Freetown had almost doubled due to a police raid on a poor area of town. Thanks to your donations, we just managed to give most women a few welfare items each. We spent the rest of the day taking statements from the women with our Legal Officer, Legal Volunteer and law students.
AdvocAid was honoured to be invited to speak at the National Conference on Advancing Legal Aid for Women’s Rights organised by the Human Rights Commission on 8 to 9 December 2010 as part of their events listed to mark International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2011.
Sabrina Mahtani, Executive Director, gave a key note speech on “Exploring New Approaches to Legal Aid and Assistance for Women”.
Click here to read more about the conference in a news article by Awoko Newspaper.
AdvocAid, with the support of GIZ, has developed a Handbook on the United Nations Standards for the Treatment of Female Prisoners. The handbook can be found in the “resources” section of our website or by clicking here.
This handbook aims to provide a clear, portable and easy to use guide to the “Bangkok Rules,” adopted by the United Nations in 2010, which outline international standards for the treatment of female prisoners and female offenders.
The information is in point form, illustrated with cartoons and referenced with detailed footnotes. It is organised according to prison officials’ duties and functions.
The handbook is designed to assist prison officials, prisoners and civil society in fostering enforcement of human rights standards for girls, women and their children in the criminal justice system.
The 1st edition of the handbook was used during a 2 day training on the Bangkok Rules from 5 – 6 December 2011 with female prison officers in Freetown. Plans are to extend the training to the provinces next year and to produce a 2nd edition of the handbook following learnings from the trainings.
The fantastic illustrations were provided by De Monk, Arts & Media Production, 6/17 Cannon Street, Freetown, Sierra Leone/ 076 470 288/ 033 511 148/ email@example.com.
Great graphic design by Stephanie Maylon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To mark World AIDS Day 2011, we are sharing a case study about how we assisted a female detainee who was affected with HIV. AdvocAid aims to provide medical and welfare assistance to girls, women and their children in detention. We also conduct legal and reproductive rights work shops with sex workers as part of our preventative educational initiatives.
Hadja and Aminatta
Hadja and Aminatta were market traders. They were walking past the police station when they stopped and spoke to someone they knew who had been arrested by the police. The police also arrested them for conspiracy to commit armed robbery. They were detained in October 2009.
AdvocAid instructed a lawyer for them in April 2010 following a needs assessment to Makeni. AdvocAid referred Hadja for HIV/ AIDS testing due to concerns about her health and she was diagnosed HIV positive. Hadja was also 7 months pregnant. Although AdvocAid and referred maternal health charities did all they could to assist Hadja, she sadly died a week after giving birth. AdvocAid were at least able to ensure she had a dignified burial and have assisted her child to be fostered and receive good medical treatment. The baby is thankfully healthy.
Aminatta was released in July 2010 after her case was discharged. AdvocAid have assisted her with post prison support to set up a small business selling coconut cakes. She passed her Stage 1 literacy as part of AdvocAid’s prison literacy classes.
As part of our reintegration programme, we are offering skills based training to female ex prisoners. Our first course focused on jewellery design.
The women were offered a six week course to introduce them to the basics of jewellery design. The course was lead by Rikke Clevin Jensen, a Danish jewellery designer who trained at the Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London, and Marisa Zawaki.
Since the course began in October 2011, the women have been busily producing necklaces, earrings and bracelets from locally sourced materials. We will be organising a sale in Freetown for the Christmas season. Details to come soon!
The aim of the jewellery design training is to not only help the ex prisoners reintegrate into society, but to provide them with unique skills and a sustainable business opportunity.
AdvocAid’s Executive Director, Legal Officer and Volunteer Lawyer spent several days in Bo and Kenema to monitor and support the work of our paralegal in the Easter region.
Prisoners at Kenema Female Prison (literacy classes conducted by AdvocAid's partner, EducAid)
The visit included prison monitoring, distributing key welfare items to women and their children in Bo and Kenema prison as well as legal support and supervision of our paralegal. We also conducted meetings with several key stakeholders such as the police, courts and NGOs in order to strengthen relationships and partner networks.
Simitie Lavaly and Catherine Martyn, AdvocAid Associate. Ms Martyn is the longest serving woman at the Sierra Leone Bar at present.
The visit included two legal education radio programmes, with live call in sessions, conducted by Simitie Lavaly (Legal Officer) on Eastern Radio and SLBC Eastern. Several people called in and the discussions were very lively. Simitie covered issues such as rights when you are arrested, accessing bail and women in prison for debt.