New Documentary Shows Harassment and Violence Faced by Sex Workers

Title: New Documentary Shows Harassment and Violence Faced by Sex Workers Year: 2017  Today, AdvocAid and its partners launch “Kolonko,” a documentary in which sex workers talk about their lives. ‘Kolonko’ is the Krio-language term for a sex worker and its derogatory nature reflects the social and economic marginalisation sex workers face. In the documentary, women discuss the sexual, physical, and verbal abuse they endure on a daily basis at the hands of their clients and the police. In interviews with 18 women, they make a plea to the government, the police, and the public: to accept them as citizens who have rights – over their bodies and to be free from violence. These women and girls, interviewed between 2015 and 2016, depend on sex work for their livelihoods. One of the interviewees told AdvocAid: “I had no-one to take care of me. I had no source of money; that’s why I became a sex worker.” However, sex work often puts women and girls at great risk. One woman working in Lumley recalls being held at knife point by a client. She told AdvocAid: “They [clients] have sex with us and then beat us. When we argue, they take out a knife and say if you talk they will stab you.” Sadly, assaults of this kind were common in the experiences shared with us by the sex workers. Of the 18 women interviewed in the making of “Kolonko,” all reported suffering physical violence, sexual abuse, or theft from clients. Despite suffering sexual and other forms of violence, sex workers are largely unprotected by the law. Many do not report the...

AdvocAid welcomes new Executive Director and Legal Officer

Title: AdvocAid welcomes new Executive Director and Legal Officer Year: 2017  AdvocAid is proud to welcome two new staff members to its team in Sierra Leone. Daniel Eyre joins the organisation today as Interim Executive Director and Cheryl Sembie started in August as Legal Officer. Simitie Lavaly, AdvocAid’s current Executive Director, is leaving after 6 years of working with the organisation. “I am sad to leave AdvocAid after such a long time, but am happy I am leaving the organisation in safe hands. It has been a privilege to serve as Executive Director and I am proud of all the organisation has achieved under my leadership. I will continue to support AdvocAid and its vision for a more just society for women and girls,” she said. Daniel Eyre has a wealth of experience working in human rights, having previously worked at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and Amnesty International. “AdvocAid changes the lives of women and girls in conflict with the law every day. I hope to build on the excellent work done by AdvocAid’s innovative and dedicated team. I believe that men can and must campaign for women’s rights and gender equality and look forward to doing this during my time at AdvocAid,” Daniel said. Cheryl Sembie is an experienced barrister, having worked at the Law Reform Commission and Sierra Leone Legal Aid Board. “Joining AdvocAid fulfils my ambition to further serve girls and women in my country. As Legal Officer I look forward to strengthening AdvocAid’s legal aid and police accountability work,” she said. Sabrina Mahtani, one of AdvocAid’s Board members said: “We are grateful to Simitie for all...

New leadership for AdvocAid

Following the celebration of our 10 year anniversary last year and winning the Clifford Chance Access to Justice Award, which includes 500 hours of pro bono support from legal and organisational experts, AdvocAid would like to share news of developments for the organisation in 2017.   WELCOME TO TWO NEW BOARD MEMBERS AdvocAid is pleased to welcome two new board members, Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus and Camilla McArthur, to the organisation. Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus is Policy Manager at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). She is responsible for leading the organisation’s work on public policy issues impacting immigrants and refugees. Lisa has worked in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia and Ghana previously, and she brings a strong background in advocacy and research to AdvocAid. Camilla McArthur has over 10 years of experience in supporting civil society organisations develop their organisational and project management capacity, expertise she will contribute to AdvocAid’s development. Camilla has worked with organisations with global reach and NGOs based in Tanzania, Senegal, Morocco, and Southeast Asia. “We are delighted to have Lisa and Camilla joining AdvocAid. They bring new skills, experience and passion for women’s rights, which will strengthen the governance and strategic vision of the organisation,” said Board Chair and co-founder, Sabrina Mahtani. THE SEARCH FOR A NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR In June, our Executive Director, Ms. Simitie Lavaly Zorokong, will be stepping down from her role after more than six years working with the organisation. While Simitie is leaving the organisation to further develop her career, she will continue to support AdvocAid in a voluntary capacity. Simitie has worked for AdvocAid since 2009, starting as a paralegal...

Inside a remand home for juveniles in Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone’s justice system, children and youth are rarely treated any differently than adults. They often spend excessive time behind bars without charge – considered guilty until proved innocent. To raise awareness about conditions in detention facilities for juveniles, journalist Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (alias De Monk) has written an excellent article about his recent visit to the remand home for juveniles in Kingtom, Freetown. One of the things he noted was the severe impact of funding constraints on the rehabilitation of detainees. The government-funded remand home is supposed to be a reformation centre for juveniles, who come in contact with the law, but there’s not much, if any, reform activity going on there at the moment. There is no formal education program in place and this means these school age children, after spending long periods on remand, go back to their communities worse off than they were. In the article, De Monk also tells the story of Mohamed Sesay*, who has spent three years at the remand home without trial. No indictment papers (the documents required for an accused person to stand trial in the High Court) have been filed, and the complainant has never appeared to pursue the case against the boy. Read the full story: SIERRA LEONE – Juvenile detention centres lack means to reform inmates. *Names of inmates in the article are fictional to protect their identities. Sierra Leones has two remand homes for juvenile suspects and one detention facility for convicted juveniles. All are massively under-funded, and lack of resources for detention facilities have grave consequences for the children waiting for their sentences. De Monk approached AdvocAid after the Day of the African...

Imprisoned for Debt? AdvocAid Says it is Time to Reform the Larceny Act 1916

30 March 2016: AdvocAid are today calling for reform to Sierra Leone’s Larceny Act – an act that leads to many Sierra Leonean women being illegally imprisoned for debt. Women owing as little as Le 250,000 (around $60) have been imprisoned for up to three years. This call comes one week after AdvocAid and the British Council Sierra Leone held a policy debate on the topic, titled Decongesting Correctional Centres: lifting the criminalising of owing a debt under the Larceny Act 1916, as part of their co-delivered EU funded Justice Matters Programme. Over the two-year programme, it has become increasingly evident that women in Sierra Leone still suffer disproportionately from the lack of actions taken to decriminalise debt. AdvocAid – a Civil Society Organisation providing free legal aid to women in Sierra Leone – highlight that ‘fraudulent conversion’ is an offence contained in section 20(1)(iv)(b) of the Larceny Act 1916. It is, intended to criminalise the use of property for purposes other than that for which it was given and/or intended. It is AdvocAid’s experience that interpretations of fraudulent conversion in Sierra Leone have now evolved far beyond this original definition, distinctly disadvantaging women. Charges are increasingly applied to situations where a debtor is unable to repay a sum of money they had initially agreed to pay the complainant. It is not the first time that AdvocAid have raised this issue, releasing the ‘Women, Debt and Detention’ report in 2012. One of AdvocAid’s clients is Saptieu (28), a trader. She owed her supplier Le 2,400,000 ($600) for goods taken on credit. As she was unable to pay the full amount on...

AdvocAid Urges the President to Sign the Safe Abortion Act

12 February 2016: AdvocAid have today released a briefing paper urging the President of Sierra Leone to sign the Safe Abortion Act 2015 and thereby enhance the human rights of women and prevent needless deaths. The paper comes just one week after they released an open letter to President Ernest Bai Koroma – alongside Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and four other local NGOs – to sign into law the Safe Abortion Act 2015. The Act was passed by Parliament in December 2015, but is yet to be signed into law by the President, due to concerns raised by Sierra Leone’s religious leaders. Currently, it is a criminal offence for a woman in Sierra Leone to have an abortion, or for someone to provide her with such a service, unless the mother’s life is at risk. Such restrictions contravene numerous international and regional commitments the country has made, on the Rights of Women in Africa. In the decade in which they have operated in Sierra Leone, AdvocAid have represented a number of women that have been arrested due to illegal abortions, including the case of Joan (name changed to protect her identity), a nurse convicted in July 2009 of the manslaughter of a young schoolgirl, who allegedly came to her for abortion services, but later died. Joan was sentenced to 6-years imprisonment. She denies the allegation and the autopsy report was inconclusive to show that Joan’s actions led to the death of the schoolgirl. AdvocAid attempted to lodge an appeal for Joan, but her High Court file was missing, and by the time the matter was ready for hearing, she...