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Supporting 350 Female Detainees in Sierra Leone

by AdvocAid
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
Women in the courtyard of a female correctional
Women in the courtyard of a female correctional

In Sierra Leone, children who are on trial are incarcerated in ‘remand homes.’ As juveniles, they cannot be incarcerated in the adult correctional centres. These children remain in the remand homes for the duration of their court case - sometimes for many years. 

For children detained in the remand home they are not only deprived of their liberty, they are often deprived of an education. These years without access to education, coupled stigma of incarceration, can prove to be too big a gap in their learning to be bridged when starting a life beyond detention. 

AdvocAid is fortunate to have generous support from a range of volunteers. One such volunteer is a teacher who has been visiting the remand home on a weekly basis for several months to provide tailored classes to two girls in the remand home, Mariatu* and Tenneh*. This teacher has been helping them improve with their writing, reading and comprehension, as well as basic maths. These are critical skills, as both Mariatu and Tenneh had ambitions to sit their Basic Examination Certificate (BEC).  AdvocAid was able to pay the fees required and buy the uniforms needed to sit the exam, as well as buy books and supplies for their learning, with thanks to the generous donations received through Global Giving. In addition to the fantastic support from our volunteer teacher, AdvocAid was also able to pay for a teacher to provide a few weeks of exam preparation lessons. 

Passing the exam means that Mariatu and Tenneh could then apply for senior secondary school and continue their education. They’re currently awaiting their results with keen anticipation. Our social worker Fatmata visits Mariatu and Tenneh at the remand home regularly and talks about their ambitions: ‘Both are so passionate, so hard-working. You know, they both have such plans. Tenneh dreams of becoming a counsellor. She wants to tell others, girls of her age, that there is always a way out. And Mariatu, she wants to become a lawyer. She told me that every time she goes for a hearing at court she sees how many people are left without a lawyer, without any hope or information about their cases. They both want to make a difference once they get out.’

All stages of imprisonment can have an impact on post-prison reintegration. Providing legal aid and social welfare support, including psycho-social support, during incarceration is a step to helping women and girls leave prison with brighter prospects. behalf of the people we work with, thank you for your generous donations, that allow us to keep up each pillar of our work. 

Mariatu was released on bail in August 2019, after taking her BEC exam. She was in the remand home for several years whilst on trial.

To get the latest news from AdvocAid, follow us on social media:

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In Sierra Leone, women on trial or convicted of a crime are permitted to be detained with any children they have under 2 years old. This allows mothers to continue breastfeeding their child and care for them in their infancy.

However, these mothers often struggle to ensure their children are well-nourished. Whilst in detention, women may only receive one or two meals a day, of food that may not be suitable for an infant or toddler. With your donations to Global Giving, we’ve been able to provide mothers in several correctional centres with additional food items for their children – this includes 2 babies in Makeni, 2 in Kenema and 5 presently in Freetown.

The Sierra Leone Correctional Service recognises that further steps need to be taken towards implementing the ‘Bangkok Rules’ – UN guidance on specific support needed by women offenders and prisoners. They have constructed a temporary ‘child-friendly centre’ in the Freetown Female Correctional Centre, with ambitions to open centres in each female correctional centre across the country. These centres are due to be child-friendly environments with toys and activities to stimulate children and create a safe space for play and development.

With your generous donations through Global Giving, AdvocAid will continue to support mothers and children in detention. On behalf of the women and girls we work with, thank you.

Next month Global Giving will be launching a bonus day; on July 18th any donations of $100 or over will be matched with some funding from Global Giving. Please consider donating on July 18th - your donation will be doubled and directly support our work with incarcerated women and girls.

To get the latest news from AdvocAid please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up to our newsletter via our website.

*Names have been changed to protect the individuals’ identities.

Mental health is a complex challenge for correctional centres. Some incarcerated women have come into conflict with the law as a direct result of a mental health problem. Some women develop mental health problems whilst in detention. Circumstances are challenging, for example overcrowding of cells, enforced solitude, lack of privacy, inadequate health and hygiene facilities, and limited contact with one’s loved ones. All of this can result in poor or deteriorating mental health. 

AdvocAid works on partnership with the Sierra Leone Correctional Service to protect the rights of incarcerated women in girls. This includes ensuring they have access to appropriate healthcare, both medical and psychological; they are treated with humanity and dignity; they’re protected from violence; and children in detention with their mothers are provided for. However, there are limited mental health services within Sierra Leone – this presents a challenge for the correctional service seeking to meet the needs of those in detention.

AdvocAid social workers provide one to one support and group psycho-social empowerment sessions, designed to support women with the emotional tools they may need whilst incarcerated. Despite this, we are aware of several women with acute mental health needs that require the support of a professional mental health specialist. With permission from the correctional service’s Medical Superintendent, AdvocAid now arranges for a mental health counsellor to visit the Freetown Female Correctional Service on a weekly basis to have one-to-one counselling sessions for women with the greatest need. AdvocAid has been able to provide this as a result of the generous donations made by our Global Giving donors.

It is with your help that several female detainees are now receiving much-needed mental healthcare. Through your generous donations, we hope to continue this for the months to come. In time, we would like to provide such support at all female correctional centres in Sierra Leone. 

On behalf of the women and girls we work with, we thank you for your generosity. To get the latest news from AdvocAid please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up to our newsletter via our website.

A detained woman and her child
A detained woman and her child

In Sierra Leone, women in correctional centres, either on pre-trial detention or carrying out a sentence, are permitted to be detained with their children under two years old. This policy allows mothers to provide care for infants and continue breast-feeding. However, these children are often not provided for. Women in correctional centres are often unable to access basic necessities such as medicines, toiletries and nutritious food. These welfare needs are particularly acute for pregnant women and mothers caring for children within the correction centres.

In October one of our social workers was conducting a routine weekly visit to the Freetown Female Correctional Centre, when mothers made an urgent plea for welfare assistance. At the time, nine babies were detained in the correctional centres. Many of the mothers said their children were unable to sleep at night due to hunger. AdvocAid was able to provide emergency welfare packages for these mothers containing milk powder, sugar and garri (cassava flour, often used to make porridge). Earlier that same month, AdvocAid was also able to provide emergency welfare packages for several babies in Bo and Kenema correctional centres.

The physical effects of poor nutrition and health standards are perhaps the most visible signs of the impact of imprisonment for both mothers and children, but there are also heavy emotional and psychological. As a means of providing emotional support, AdvocAid’s social workers conduct psycho-social sessions with women in detention. These often include prayer, exchanging personal stories, providing positive feedback to other detainees, making plans for life after prison and playing games. One participant said she had learnt ‘acceptance, forgiveness and how to cope with my situation’ during the session. Another woman said the session ‘was really helpful to us. Most of us have so many thoughts running through our minds, which sometimes makes us have sleepless nights. This affects our mental wellbeing, but now I am learning how to cope.’

It is with your help that AdvocAid is able to respond to the emergency welfare requests from mothers and their babies in detention. Without your support, we often are unable to meet these requests for food and basic necessities. On behalf of the women and girls we work with, we thank you for your generosity.

For all new recurring donors signing up this December to support AdvocAid, Global Giving will provide match-funding from month four onwards. For example, if you sign up as a recurring donor during December to donate £10 a month, Global Giving will match this donation from April onwards and AdvocAid will receive £20 a month.

Please sign up to our newsletter, via our website, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get the latest news about AdvocAid’s work.

Inside the Freetown Female Correctional Centre
Inside the Freetown Female Correctional Centre

Whilst in correctional centres, women often lack necessities such as medicines, toiletries and nutritious food – but it is the separation from family that can often present the greatest challenge.

In September 2018, on a routine monitoring trip to the Freetown Female Correctional Centre (FFCC), an AdvocAid social worker met Jitta*, a 26-year old woman with three children. Jitta had been denied bail and was on remand at the FFCC with her 8-month old son. The social worker met her in great distress about the welfare of her other two children – a 3-year old and 6-year old – who had been left without proper care since her detention. 

Jitta was accused of wounding her fiancée, Ibrahim. Ibrahim had seen Jitta coming out of another man’s house. They began quarrelling and then fighting. During the fight, Ibrahim allegedly hit her and squeezed her until she found it difficult to breathe – Jitta then took a knife, with the intent to threaten him but accidentally stabbed Ibrahim in the chest and wounded him. 

AdvocAid’s social worker provided women’s sanitation packs and child welfare packs for Jitta*, to give her access to sanitary and toiletries items to care for herself and her 8-month old son. In response to Jitta’s distress about the care of her 3-year old and 6-year old, AdvocAid’s social worker traced the fiancée Ibrahim to discuss the children’s welfare, making the case to him that whilst Jitta was in detention the children would not be properly cared for.   

At Jitta’s third appearance in court, Ibrahim declared to the court that he had forgiven Jitta. As a result of the discussion and support from AdvocAid’s social worker, Ibrahim pleaded with the judge, describing the suffering of the two children and asking for mercy on behalf of Jitta. Jitta was also represented in court by AdvocAid’s Legal Officer, who submitted a plea and the case was discharged.

Jitta was released from the FFCC with the support from AdvocAid’s social worker and legal officer. Social workers provide critical emotional support to women on detention and welfare packages to help women preserve their dignity. Social workers also have a critical role to play, through family tracing and seeking to mediate where there are disputes. The legal officer provides free legal representation to women who have no access to a lawyer whilst on trial. 

Jitta told us that “I was almost crazy whilst in the prison thinking of my case and my kids back at home. I am grateful to AdvocAid and their staff who came to my rescue.”

We can only support the rights of women and girls in detention with your support. Thanks to you, our donors, we can help women live with dignity in detention and reconcile differences with family members. For Jitta, this resulted in the discharge of her case and returning home to her children. 

Please sign up to our newsletter, via our website, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get the latest news about AdvocAid’s work.

 *Names have been changed to protect the individuals’ identities.

 

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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
$3,427 raised of $15,000 goal
 
57 donations
$11,573 to go
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