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 of being in conflict with the law. I had only ever imagined myself advocating for women and girls who were victims.
Defending female offenders was hard to comprehend, so at first I was accompanied by my predecessor, Victoria, on visits to the police stations and prisons. Going to these places was a great experience, but listening to some of the clients telling why they found themselves in police cells and correctional centre was appalling. I said to myself, “I don’t see why they should be freed”.
It took me a while, before I started changing my opinion. When I facilitated the release of women imprisoned under the State of Emergency Laws, many police officers and people I knew found it very odd. They saw me as an advocator for the perpetrator and NOT for the victim.
It was AdvocAid’s training for paralegals that changed my perception of perpetrators. It opened my eyes to all the challenges that can lead women to offending, and it made me see that all human beings have rights – irrespective of the crime they commit. I was finally convinced that all women deserve and have the right to representation to an extent where I actually became passionate about defending female perpetrators.
Today, with AdvocAid, I have contributed to the empowerment of hundreds of vulnerable women and girls, and many of these women and girls have become role model in their communities. AdvocAid continues to inspire me, and this makes me more committed to their objectives and to defending the rights of all women and girls in Sierra Leone.
As part of our 10-year anniversary celebrations, every month for 10 months, we’ll be showcasing the best of AdvocAid through guest blogs from our staff, volunteers, partners and board members.