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,...

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...

Lawyer I.P. Mammie:“If you want a foothold in criminal practice, AdvocAid is a great place to learn”

For this month’s anniversary blog, Lawyer Ishmael P Mammie has sat down with Saskia B Binet, AdvocAid’s Development Intern, to tell her about what it’s like to represent AdvocAid clients and how representing women with sometimes very serious charges has affected his career. Since early 2013, Mammie has been working closely with AdvocAid as one of their Duty Counsel Lawyers in Freetown, representing clients in some of the organisation’s most critical and notorious cases. Trained at Fourah Bay College and recommended by a former AdvocAid Duty Counsel on the basis of his successes in court, Lawyer Mammie emphasises the duty of both fighting injustices in the system and defending challenging cases. Since he has started working with AdvocAid, he has represented 359 women and girls including 38 juvenile cases.   When asked about a particular highlight whilst working for AdvocAid, Lawyer Mammie finds it hard to pinpoint a time. “So far, everything I have done for AdvocAid has been interesting, and there have been several striking moments which continue to occur, for the very reason that AdvocAid cases are extremely challenging. As well as representing clear injustices, we also deal with people who can have multiple charges against them, murder being one of them.”   Often Lawyer Mammie’s cases can attract a lot of media attention, and he discusses one of the cases that garnered the most attention and affected him personally. In discussing a particular murder case, in which a woman had killed her boyfriend, Mammie states that ‘from day one there was not a moment that the issue was not reported in the newspapers and the radio. And in fact it...

Paralegal Nenny: How I was convinced that perpetrators’ rights matter

Nenny Kargbo, paralegal in Makeni, has been a huge asset to AdvocAid since she started working for us in 2014. In this months’ contribution to our 10 year anniversary blog series, Nenny admits that it took her a while before she fully agreed that female perpetrators deserve our support. Today, she is committed to protecting the rights of all women and girls, and she is passionate about helping released clients become role models instead of victims. Ever since I was a child, I have been passionate about human rights. Growing up during our 11-year long civil conflict, I have suffered from violence and injustice myself, and it made me long to be a defender of women’s and girls’ rights.   In 2012, I came across AdvocAid when a colleague of mine was arrested and detained in police cell for allegedly wounding her boyfriend with a blade. After three days, she was granted court bail with no payment and she was represented in court until her case was discharged. When I asked her what happened, the first thing she told me was: “I thank AdvocAid. Oh, my sister, if not for them I would have been sent to jail.”   Even though I have worked for a human rights-based organisations in the past, it was never enough. I became interested in working for AdvocAid, because here I could help defending the rights of women and girls in conflict of the law.   My dream came true in 2014, when I got a job as paralegal for AdvocAid. Yet on my first day at work, I found myself in a different world, and in the beginning I didn’t fully understand the concept...