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...

Sierra Leone: Justice for Women Who Kill

Title: Justice for Women Who Kill Year: 2017 Summary: Opinion Piece written by our board member Sabrina Mahtani about a woman who has not received her appeal judgement for the murder of her partner. This comes 7 years after AdvocAid placed the appeal. Aminata has been in prison since she was 17 years old. Aminata* was only 17 years old when she was arrested for killing her former boyfriend eight years ago. She was sentenced to death for murder in November 2010 and feared each day she would be executed before her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the government on Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Day on 27 April 2011. A local NGO, AdvocAid, filed an appeal for her in 2010 but Aminata is still waiting for her appeal judgment almost 7 years later. She, like many women behind bars, are often forgotten and overlooked. Aminata is from the Eastern region of Sierra Leone, Kenema, rich in diamonds. She is an orphan, is illiterate and did not go to school. Aminata was in a relationship with Foday* but left him as he used to beat her on a regular basis. Unfortunately, Foday lived in the same compound as Aminata as he was the landlord’s son and he used to harass her to continue the relationship. One morning in September 2009 it all got too much for Aminata. Foday was beating her with a rubber pipe and she stabbed him with a knife to protect herself. She was arrested by the police and detained for several days. AdvocAid hired a senior female lawyer to represent Aminata in court. She...

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...
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...

Day of the African Child: AdvocAid calls for better child protection in the justice sector

In partnership with:    CHILDREN AND JUVENILES BEHIND BARS – In Sierra Leone’s justice system, children and youth are usually not treated any differently than adults. They often spend excessive time behind bars without charge – considered guilty until proved innocent. Detention is often the first resort for offences committed by children. In late May 2016, AdvocAid’s Executive Director, Simitie Lavaly, visited the remand home for juveniles in Bo on an unannounced monitoring visit. Here she met 21 children under the age of 18 – including one 10-year old boy charged with murder – held in a dark, unmaintained detention facility with poor sanitation facilities and too few mattresses. Two young girls were also detained at the remand home, but there is no gate separating the girls’ and boy’s dormitories and no female member of staff. The remand home is massively under-funded, and staff members stated that they lack the resources to refurbish the facility. The conditions in the Bo Remand Home clearly violate the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules), the United Nation Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules) as well as procedures for child protection outlined in Sierra Leone’s 2007 Child Rights Act and the Children and Young Persons Act 1945. HELP US IMPROVE CHILD JUSTICE – On the Day of the African Child 2016, AdvocAid joins forces with Save the Children to upgrade detention facilities in the Bo Remand Home. We are mobilising our resources and connections to repaint the walls...