Lawyer Saramba’s blog – AdvocAid: 10 years fighting for justice

Ten years ago, at the very beginning of our existance, Saramba Kandeh started her legal internship with AdvocAid. Later she became our first ever female Duty Counsel. Today, Saramba is a Legal and Gender Associate at Aids-Free World, but she has agreed to write this month’s blog to celebrate AdvocAid’s 10th anniversary. In the blog, she tells about some of the women she represented and why the experience she gained made her want to become a human rights lawyer.     My work with AdvocAid remains one of my most valuable experiences – both as a law student and a lawyer. I was fortunate to work with the organization from its inception in 2006. As part of a legal internship, I conducted legal education workshops for female prisoners at the Pademba Road Central Prison in Freetown. During the workshops, I listened to accused women tell their stories of how they ended up in conflict with the law. These women included domestic abuse survivors who had fought back and petty traders charged with ‘fraudulent conversion’ because they could not afford to repay their debts. Most of them committed crimes induced by poverty.   Their stories impacted me deeply and left me with a profound sense of commitment towards the protection and promotion of human rights. Although I already had an interest in human rights issues, up to that point I wasn’t entirely sure that I would opt to specialize in Human Rights Law. It was my work at AdvocAid, and the opportunity to directly interact with our criminal justice system as a law student, that helped me realize that I wanted to become a...

Development Intern Saskia’s Blog: How AdvocAid taught me to be braver

This summer, Saskia Bunschoten-Binet did an internship with AdvocAid. She very quickly got herself immersed in various aspects of our work and she became an invaluable support to the team. Thanks, Saskia, for all your hard work and dedication! In this month’s contribution to our anniversary blog series, Saskia reflects upon her time working for AdvocAid.   As I am writing this blog, my two months interning at AdvocAid are coming to an end. I can’t help feeling both that I have been working here for years and that the time has gone past so quickly! For 8 weeks, I have been working as a Development Intern, helping AdvocAid’s Development Associate, Signe Roelsgaard, in her work and observing how the organisation works.   I am a student at Cambridge University, originally from London, and when I return to the UK, I will be entering my final and fourth year of Human, Social and Political Sciences.   Work got busy very quickly. After only three days, I went to an eventful meeting with Senior Police Officers from the Sierra Leone Police, where we showed clips of allegations against the police from a documentary AdvocAid is producing about Commercial Sex Workers. This was a fantastic way to get to the heart of what AdvocAid does. I saw how they support those in society, who are structurally marginalised and penalised in an unjust legal system, which is chronically underfunded. It was also the first time I saw the kind of bravery that those working for AdvocAid need to have. It requires strength, courage, and commitment to not only continuously advocate for those most vulnerable in society,...

“Starting Where the Law Finishes”: An Analysis of the Prerogative of Mercy in Sierra Leone

In August 2016, Rebecca Agliolo – a Law Student at the University of Cambridge – volunteered remotely for AdvocAid. One of the outcomes was an interesting analysis of “the Prerogative of Mercy”, which offers offenders the opportunity of retrospective pardon. Prerogative of Mercy: Background Lapses of the criminal justice system are inevitable in even the most exacting of legal systems. Whether through lack of information, violation of civil rights or human fallibility, occasionally innocent individuals are erroneously convicted of a crime. In most situations, cases are appealed through the judicial system. However, where due process has been exhausted, the Prerogative of Mercy provides an extra-judicial remedy. Perhaps this is why the Prerogative of Mercy is said to “start where the law finishes”.   The prerogative traces its origins to the British tradition, as a form of retrospective mercy offered by the monarch. Today a discretionary power typically vested in either the monarch or head of state, the Prerogative of Mercy functions to ameliorate the harshness of sentencing or alleviate miscarriages of justice; most commonly, an offender may be pardoned, or have his sentence commuted.   In Sierra Leone, the purpose of the Prerogative of Mercy is divorced from its typical function in historical and international contexts. The President may grant a ‘Presidential Pardon’, which is exercised twice a year: on New Year and on Sierra Leone’s Independence Day. The Presidential Pardon is seen to be a gesture of goodwill and celebration.   However, the legal and political backdrop of the Presidential Pardon is not entirely a cause for celebration. In this article I shall first outline the typical functioning of the Prerogative of...

Finance Officer Julie W: How working in prisons changed me forever

Julie Wilson is our Finance and Administrative Officer. Born and raised in Freetown, before becoming part of the AdvocAid family, Julie worked with both the Brookfields Community Hospital and Rokel Commercial Bank. She started with AdvocAid in July 2010 and has been providing vital administrative, project management and financial services ever since! In this blog, Julie discusses her motivations for working with AdvocAid and how the organisation has grown to what it has become today. I started working for AdvocAid in July 2010, when the organisation had its first self-owned office space. I worked with the former Executive Director and co-founder, Sabrina Mahtani, to set up the office so that we could expand as we wanted which was a very exciting process. At that time we had very little furniture in the office, no generator, and no internet connection except for the one that was personally owned by Sabrina. If there was a power failure for the whole day, it meant that I could not work as I was using a laptop with a very weak battery. It was not really easy during those early days, but with determination and the passion for the girls and women we are advocating for, we strived to reach where we are today. To God be the glory! I admired the selfless nature of Sabrina, for there was a period when she had to go without a salary for months due to lack of funding. Her sacrifices really motivated me.   One experience that was a particularly proud moment for me was when I was able to reunite a teenage girl with her...
AdvocAid holds nationwide literacy class graduation in Female Correctional Centres

AdvocAid holds nationwide literacy class graduation in Female Correctional Centres

    On 8th and 15th September 2016, AdvocAid coordinated and celebrated the graduation of newly empowered female inmates in Makeni, Kono, Kenema and Freetown Female Correctional Centres. A total of 42 inmates were graduating from an intensive education programme run by AdvocAid and facilitated by EducAid, which gives thorough adult literacy & numeracy classes to inmates throughout the year.   AdvocAid seeks to stop the cycle of illiteracy by delivering literacy classes to women in detention, providing them with stronger prospects and a brighter future upon release. The classes are delivered by AdvocAid’s educational partner, EducAid. EducAid teaches three comprehensive and intensive classes per week for the different literacy levels, on a termly basis, with a graduation upon completion. The classes take place within correctional centres across the country in Freetown, Makeni, Kenema and Koidu City (Kono).   For this momentous event, 108 people in Freetown Correctional Centre gathered together in the heat of the sun to celebrate the graduation of 23 women. AdvocAid’s Programme Manager Julie M. Sesay introduced the purpose of the graduation and welcomed everyone profusely. Guests included the Executive Director of EducAid Miriam Mason Sesay, British Council Country Director  Simon Ingram – Hill, EducAid teachers, correctional centre staff, media personnel and all inmates.   In her opening statement, AdvocAid Executive Director Simitie Lavaly said that the training will serve as a key way for these women to integrate into society. This was followed by EducAid Executive Director Miriam Mason-Sesay, who in her statement emphasised how the inmates should never give up and that education was the way forward. She used her own life story to...