Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone

by AdvocAid
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Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone
Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone

 Finding sureties, or finding people to be responsible for someone being released from correctional custody while they await trial, is an important aspect of AdvocAid’s work. During our work in 2020 we found that a number of women, like Mariatu, struggled to meet the bail conditions required for their release, often due to the lack of family able or willing to stand as surety.

While she was heavily pregnant, Mariatu’s husband abandoned her and their three children to live with his new girlfriend. Struggling to feed herself and her children, Mariatu went to beg her husband to help care for his family. Her husband refused to return home or provide for his family. Distraught and jealous, Mariatua stabbed the girlfriend on her side during an argument.

Nine months pregnant with twins, Mariatu was arrested for wounding with intent and detained in a police station for 14 days. She was later transferred to the Kabala correctional center where she gave birth to a boy and girl. Unfortunately, she remained detained with her twins throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sierra Leone. In October 2020, AdvocAid was able to convince the magistrate to reduce her bail conditions. Her bail conditions required a single family member to stand as surety while she awaits trial. In part because of the stigma, no one, including her husband, is willing to do so.

Mariatu is still at the Kabala Correctional center with her twins. AdvocAid continues to provide welfare support and we continue to work to secure the release of Mariatu and her twins. With your support AdvocAid will continue to hold more legal education sessions this new year to increase communities’ knowledge on legal rights processes including the importance of standing as surety for women like Mariatu. 

 

*name changed to protect her anonymity 

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Throughout this pandemic, AdvocAid has continued working with and supporting women and girls who have come in contact with the law. Our social workers give counselling to women who are detained while our paralegals provide legal support.

Forging collaborative relationships with our partners and stakeholders, such as the Sierra Leone Police, is an essential part of our work.

To improve COVID-19 preventative and protective measures in police stations, we provided much needed items such as veronica buckets, soap, hand sanitizers, as well as basics such as mattresses and pillows. These essentials support the police in improving the conditions of the women who are detained and reduce the risk of spreading infection. 

Our donations to police stations in Freetown was recently filmed and broadcasted by African Young Voices TV (AYV), a local television station in Sierra Leone. They filmed AdvocAid working to aid women in contact with the law and captured the reaction of the Superintendent at Waterloo Police Station. The Superintendent said that “it’s the first that we have received anything... for an organization in Freetown to come here and make this sort of donation... we are very much appreciating it.” 

With your support we are able to address the basic needs of marginalised women and girls, and build these vital working relationships with the police to be strong advocates for our clients and ensure the accountability needed to make longer-term improvements.

Look out for our upcoming social media post showcasing AYV’s coverage of our visit to the Waterloo Police Station.

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Whilst health facilities across the world are struggling to cope with the health demands of COVID 19, the healthcare of those detained is too often forgotten. In Sierra Leone, the first positive COVID-19 case in a correctional facility was confirmed at the end of April. AdvocAid is working hard to support efforts to slow down the spread of the virus and ensure the health of staff and detainees is protected throughout this pandemic. 

In May, the doctors at the prison health care unit Freetown had reached a point where it was difficult for them to continue taking care of patients due to a lack of funds and essential medical supplies. By working together with local businesses, AdvocAid was able to supply medicines, PPE, and other essential items to the unit. Thanks to these donations the staff at the facility were able to take complete vitals and administer all prescribed medications to their patients. Speaking a few days after receiving the donations, Dr Mansaray said, “No words can express how happy our staff and patients are currently. Our patients love the bed linens more than everything. They told us it helps restore some level of dignity in them”

Health is a fundamental human right for all and we are working hard to make sure no one is left behind. Thanks to your generous donations, we can ensure incarcerated women’s health is maintained during this time and help to reduce their risk of catching the virus. On behalf of all the women we work with, thank you.

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One of AdvocAid's pillars of support is tracing family that incarcerated women would not otherwise be able to reach out to. Even though police stations and correctional services have a duty to inform family members of the arrest, they often does not happen.

During one of our social worker's weekly visits, Mariatu* approached her. As soon as she started talking, she could not hold back her tears: "Auntie, last week they arrested me. I just came to Freetown for a visit. None of my family up in the provinces was informed about my arrest. I beg you to inform them for me. They will think I just left my children behind like that. These thoughts don’t let me sleep at night".

Fortunately, Mariatu knew of a distant family member working in town. The next day, our social worker headed out to look for him. After not finding him at his work place the first time, she came back another time. When she finally managed to find him, he immediately informed the rest of the family. Having been distressed over Mariatu’s disappearance, it was a great relief for them to hear that she was well, though arrested.

Mariatu was very relieved to know that her family and children were doing well and had been informed about her arrest. Thank you for supporting our social work, so that we can continue assisting families, even when the legal system turns their back to them.

 

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Mercy, AdvocAid’s social worker, conducting a ballgame as part of a psycho-social session in the Makeni Correctional Centre.

 

Living behind bars, only able to leave the shared cell for nine hours aday, many women’s thoughts circle around the same issues and questions day in, day out:

How many years will my sentence last?

When will I see my child again?

Will my community and family accept me after being released from prison?

Added to these thoughts comes a monotonous daily routine, sometimes interrupted by visits from outside, but mainly characterised by long hours of waiting for the time to pass. Left alone with their thoughts and worries, some women develop mental health issues such as depression.

To tackle this, AdvocAid’s social workers have been offering monthly psycho-social sessions, since September 2018, in five correctional centres across Sierra Leone. These sessions aim to help incarcerated women manage stress, resolve conflicts and build resilience. The  sessions vary: some teach the women about coping mechanisms to deal with emotions such as anger, frustration, desperation or sadness, others incorporate games, dancing or other creative ways of expressing your self. Whilst some women enjoy verbal ways of processing their experiences and challenges, others prefer storytelling, singing or speaking to a social worker one on one.

After every session, the participants get the chance to share what they enjoyed and their ideas for improvement. Over the past year, with the help of their feedback, AdvocAid has been able to adapt its support to meet the individual needs of each woman. Thanks to that, the sessions are a great success today. As one of the participants put it:

“This session is great. I am most times worried about my case whenever I remember my offence but from this session I have learnt ways to cope with my emotions through the use of the positive reach scheme and how I should deal with negative thoughts through the happy moments coping techniques.”

______________

On behalf of the women and girls we work with, thank you for your continued support for AdvocAid. Each and every donor, however big or small their contribution might be, helps us adapt our activities to respond to the acute needs of the women we work with.

 

To get the latest news from AdvocAid please follow us on:

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Organization Information

AdvocAid

Location: Freetown, Western Region - Sierra Leone
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @advocaid
Project Leader:
Rebecca Wood
Freetown, Western Area Sierra Leone
$12,167 raised of $15,000 goal
 
175 donations
$2,833 to go
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