| Sep 9, 2023
Family tracing and reunification
AdvocAid's commitment goes beyond legal representation; we are dedicated to assisting women and girls entangled in the legal system, especially when they lose contact with their families during detention or incarceration. Following our representation in court, AdvocAid takes on the responsibility of ensuring their safe return to their families and loved ones. This endeavor involves family tracing and reunification, which can be particularly challenging due to various factors such as changed contact information, family relocations, or breakdowns in family relationships.
In Sierra Leone, some of the women and girls we assist come from remote rural communities where transportation and communication infrastructure is lacking. Nonetheless, our devoted team, comprising program officers and paralegals, works tirelessly to support those facing such circumstances. A poignant example of our intervention is the case of Amie, both during her detention and after her release.
Amie, a 17-year-old junior high school student (alias used for privacy), found herself at the Remand Home after being accused of cellphone theft. In November 2022, she was arrested in connection with a missing phone that had been charging at a neighbor's house. This unfortunate incident led to her arrest on theft charges. After multiple court appearances and adjournments at the Magistrate Court, the case was ultimately dismissed in January 2023, with the specific instruction that Amie should be reunited with a responsible family member. However, upon her release, Amie had no guardian or relative to turn to.
Desiring to return to her home in a village outside, where her father, younger sister, and grandmother resided, Amie faced a difficult situation. The aunt she had been living with in town prior to her arrest refused to accept her return, a common response due to the stigma associated with time spent in the criminal justice system.
AdvocAid's Programme Manager became aware of Amie's predicament and the urgent need for assistance in family tracing and reunification. Our upcountry team, situated closest to the town where she was residing, immediately began gathering information about her family's whereabouts and arranging transportation to ensure her safe return to them. When Amie was finally reunited with her family, she expressed profound gratitude to our staff for their unwavering support during her arrest and subsequent release. In her own words, "I am grateful for AdvocAid's support in reuniting me with my father, younger sister, and grandmother. I hope to continue my education here."
Our work at AdvocAid necessitates substantial financial resources, an area where we often face significant challenges as our mission does not receive the priority it deserves within the development sector. We are deeply appreciative of GlobalGiving and all the donors who steadfastly support our efforts. Your contributions empower us to intervene in cases like Amie's, representing a demographic of young, rural women and girls who face harsh treatment within a justice system that often fails to consider the broader circumstances of their arrests. When a young woman is incarcerated, her entire future is altered, affecting her relationships, opportunities, and prospects. It means time away from school, friends, and a nurturing and loving family. This is why AdvocAid tirelessly advocates for an end to the criminalization of petty offenses and an alternative to incarceration.