While the whole world is looking for ways to combat COVID-19, women and girls in Sierra Leone are at particular risk. A 12-month State of Public Emergency, lockdowns, curfews and other restrictions, are a cause for great concern for the women and girls we work with. In this crisis, our provision of legal and welfare support is more vital than ever-a health crisis should not obstruct human rights. AdvocAid is working hard to ensure continuous support to women and girls in contact with the law.
Sierra Leone's health system has already been taken to the brink of collapse by Ebola four years ago. Poverty greatly affects anyone's ability to stockpile, socially distance or stay off work. During lockdown periods we see women being arrested for vital journeys, such as fetching water. In prison, the confined conditions, inadequate sanitation facilities, and lack of handwashing stations and protective equipment exposes inmates and staff, who travel to work from their communities.
AdvocAid has worked hard to adapt our legal and social support. Our Paralegals mediate cases at police stations to avoid them reaching court and provide legal empowerment sessions by phone. Our Social Workers provide welfare support, medical supplies and counselling to those in prison. We are working to ensure that those detained get the representation they deserve, and are not disproportionately affected. As a small and effective organisation, we will continue to adapt our response to the need.
We are ensuring that poverty or lifestyle don't put the women and girls we support at greater risk. Our support to those in detention will help minimise their risks of contracting COVID-19 and slow the spread of the virus. This project will empower women and girls by providing legal knowledge. This will help them to avoid coming into contact with the law, and identify police misconduct which AdvocAid can use in its advocacy work to make a more just and gender-sensitive justice system.