AdvocAid Launches New Kono Office To Reach More Women in Need of Free Legal Aid
Friday 19 June: Today, AdvocAid held the official opening for their new regional Kono Office from which they’ll provide targeted legal support to girls and women in conflict with the law. This is the second regional office they have opened since May 2015, thanks to the generous support of donors recognising a need to increase visibility and stability of free legal aid for women in Sierra Leone.
The Kono office is being funded by the International Women’s Programme of the Open Society Initiative (OSI) whilst the European Union and British Council under the Justice Matters: Strengthening the Rights of Women and Girls project are co-funding by supporting personnel running costs.
AdvocAid, founded in 2006, are a legal aid organisation providing free legal assistance, representation and education to girls and women in Sierra Leone. They have had an informal presence in Kono since 2012 through the retained services of Lawyer Festus B. Conteh of Lacawi and more recently in 2014 through the services of their Paralegal Sidi Sowa and Duty Counsel Lawyer A B Samura.
The opening of the official office will greatly strengthen AdvocAid’s outreach and Legal Aid programme along with prioritising and building vital visibility for women in conflict with the law in the region.
AdvocAid Executive Director, Simitie Lavaly, said at the official launch: “We are delighted to be able to officially launch our Kono office and have a firm presence here in the East of the country. The women of Kono have been crying out that they need more legal services to assist them with problems they face in this remote part of Sierra Leone. Thankfully with the combined support of Open Society Initiative, British Council and EU, together we can ensure girls and women here and in the surrounding communities can have access to critical free legal-aid, welfare support and education around their legal rights. The opening of this new regional office is a positive step in reaching more women in conflict with the law.”
The launch event was attended by over 60 people including former detainees supported by AdvocAid, criminal justice institutions, partner legal and human rights organisations, AdvocAid staff and the Sierra Leone British Council Country Director, Simon Ingram-Hill.
Mr Ingram-Hill stated: “It is vitally important that as Sierra Leone emerges from the end of a very difficult 12 month period, that we have firm foundations to move forward, grow and develop from. One area that the British Council is committed to supporting, is that of protecting the rights of girls, women and their children in Sierra Leone. By enabling AdvocAid to have a permanent presence here in Kono, together with the EU and OSI, we can ensure that vulnerable girls and women are not only provided with free access to legal aid, but that they are educated about their rights, and empowered to assert them.”
There are currently not more than seven resident lawyers in the provinces for a population of 4.3 million people (80% of the population) making additional legal services absolutely critical. Free legal advice and representation is an effective way of addressing barriers that populations experiencing marginalization and poverty often face in trying to access the justice system.
The new office is located at 43 Old Yengema Road, Koidu Town in Kono District and will be open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 4.30 pm. Any women in need of legal advice, assistance or representation should contact the office on +232 77 077 620/ +232 76 428 441.