The story of Mabinty is the story of so many detained women in Sierra Leone that AdvocAid has worked with. Once they are detained, their families forget about them, leaving them without support. AdvocAid’s holisitc approach means we can provide psychological and welfare support to these women.
Mabinty is 20 years old, and has a 6 month old baby. She came into contact with the law in 2022 when she was arrested for house-breaking and larceny. While she was detained at the police station, the police officer called AdvocAid’s social worker and informed her that a woman needed AdvocAid’s support.
Our social worker informed one of our paralegals, and together they went to the police station where they heard Mabinty’s story.
Mabinty explain that on that fateful day, her baby fell sick. She was so scared that the baby could die, so she went running for help from house to house, asking for help. But all was in vain. When she reached this specific house she knocked on the door, and when it opened it pushed the pots that were behind it. A lady came from inside the house shouting "thief", followed by her brother who later claimed that someone had stolen 45,000 Leones the previous week, and concluded that it was her. They called the Police.
During Mabinty’s detention, no family member visited, nor did any show any interest in standing as her surety (which would allow her bail), which really saddened her. She became very stressed thinking about the welfare of her baby, who she had not yet seen or talked to. During this time, AdvocAid’s social worker was undertaking family tracing to find someone to stand as surety for her. Initially, Mabinty’s family showed no interest in interacting with the social worker or visiting Mabinty at the Correctional Center. AdvocAid’s social worker persisted, and eventually Mabinty’s mother agreed to share her contact details for our social worker to give to Mabinty.
Mabinty was so excited when she found she could now call her mother, and talk to her to know about her baby’s welfare. While her mother could not stand surety for her, she advised the social worker to reach out to Mabinty’s sister, who we’re now in contact with and seeking her support so that Mabinty can be granted bail ahead of her court case.
Knowing that Mabinty can hear how her baby is, and be in touch with her family, is such an important motivator for AdvocAid’s team. Your support allows us to continuously engage with the families of incarcerated women, so that while they’re in Sierra Leone’s Correctional Centres, their emotional wellbeing is protected. Thank you.
“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a story for many Sierra Leonean women convicted of a crime, having to wait very long periods for justice. AdvocAid offers legal empowerment services, supporting these women to become aware of their legal rights, and reducing their vulnerability. This is a case study of the kind of support AdvocAid provides to women that come into contact with the law, thanks to individuals like you.
In late 2020, Aisha - a 64-year-old woman - was arrested and charged with murder. Her first interaction with AdvocAid’s paralegal in Makeni, was when she was performing police station monitoring and giving legal education to the women that were detained. Aisha informed the paralegal that she was arrested for a crime she did not commit.
According to Aisha, she and the deceased had had a physical dispute three months earlier, however it had been settled by the chief and other community elders. Since then, they had had a good relationship, and had been together just a few days before the death.
AdvocAid’s paralegal interacted with the police officers so that she could verify Aisha’s police statement - this is because oftentimes the women we work with sign police statements whose details they are not aware of. The paralegal also educated Aisha on her rights as a detainee, amd informed her about the pathways to prison, so that she could understand some of the reasons women end up in prison in Sierra Leone.
Our paralegal referred Aisha’s case to one of AdvocAid’s Duty Counsels and also made sure our social worker was aware of her and her needs. The AdvocAid Duty Counsel represented Aisha at the Magistrates Court, and at the High Court, and it was from here that the case was later reduced to manslaughter. Our social worker supported Aisha, providing her with counselling services and psychosocial support services - including welfare support, while in detention and throughout the court sittings.
At every court sitting, the AdvocAid paralegal and social worker attended court with Aisha - to not only monitor court proceedings, but to also give her the emotional support needed, as her family members were not present. Two years later, in 2022, Aisha was acquitted and discharged, because the Prosecution failed to produce their witnesses in court. As the matter had been in the High Court since 2020, the Judge thought it fit to give Aisha her freedom.
It is because of the financial support that each one of you gives, that AdvocAid is able to provide these holistic legal services to incarcerated women. Making sure they’re not only represented, but informed about what is happening, and holding their hand through the process. Making sure justice is served. So we thank you, for your continued support of the work AdvocAid does.
To join the International Women's Day celebration, AdvocAid organised an event in the Freetown Female Correctional Centre in March 2022. The event counted the presence of dignitaries like the British High Commissioner, the Irish Aid Ambassador, CPS, several Stakeholders like Women in Media Sierra Leone, representatives from the Ministry of Gender, and the Sierra Leone Police Force.
“Imagine a gender equal world.
A world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.
A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together we can forge women's equality.
Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.”
As this year’s theme was “Break the bias,” the event aimed to increase understanding of the effects and social impact of gender bias, articulate possible strategies that different stakeholders can apply to eliminate gender bias and create wariness on available psychosocial support systems for women and girls detained in correctional centres.
During the event, the British High Commissioner stated that breaking the bias brings attention to the norms, traditions, and gender imbalances women experience in the private and public sectors. She highlighted the challenges women face in correctional centres, specifically related to the lack of proper sanitation for them and their children. She emphasised the need to align the conditions of the correctional centres with international standards in order to provide adequate treatment to women in detentions. Additionally, she remarked on the need to create opportunities for women so they can sustain themselves after being released.
After that, two formerly incarcerated women that work with AdvocAid, shared their life experiences before, during, and after incarceration. They covered aspects of reintegration in their communities, creative, supportive structures for families of incarcerated women, and available economic opportunities upon release.
To finalise the event, there was an auction, where women sold the supplies they made in the correctional centre, with beads and other materials that AdvocAid provides.
Your donations allow us to continue supporting these women - Tenki.
Thanks to your donations, we are able to continue providing support to children who are detained in prison with their mothers.
For example, Mariatu* is detained with twin babies. She has been detained since October 2020, while pregnant, and gave birth in the Correctional Centre. She was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for wounding with intent and did not have adequate legal representation during the length of her trial. She had an altercation with a woman who was having an affair with her husband. The provocation and emotional abuse were not fully taken into consideration and she was given a severe sentence given that she has children to take care of inside and outside of detention.
AdvocAid has continued to provide food, clothes and other items for the twins as well as support to other children who are detained with their mothers. These children are invisible victims of imprisonment. A Global Study found that an estimated 19,000 children are living in prison with their parent, most often their mothers.
We continue to advocate for alternatives to incarceration for women with caring responsabilities, as provided for by regional and international standards. In January 2022, we issued a press release with our partner, Purposeful, highlighting the gender-disparity in the number of women who were granted Presidential Pardons. Only 5 women out of 160 incarcerated people were granted pardons during the Christmas and New Year's Day pardons. A number of women who are imprisoned with young children were not considered for a Presidential Pardon.
Your donations enable us to continue supporting these women and their children - Tenki.
Every year, the period between 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) and 10 December (Human Rights Day) is known as the 16 Days of Activism. It is a period for organisations and individuals to come together and collectively raise their voices to demand the prevention and elimination of violence against women.
AdvocAid uses these 16 days to raise awareness of the rights of women in inarceration, and in December 2021 undertook a series of events in Freetown, Makeni, and Kenema to both support women currently incarcerated in Sierra Leone's Correctional Centres, as well as bring decision makers together to hold formal dialogues on how to make justice available to women and girls in Sierra Leone.
In the Correctional Centres, we were able to distribute hygiene kits for 85 women. This is needed because it is hard for women to get hold of the basic amenities they need for themselves and their babies, which naturally affects their mental wellbeing. The kits inlude items like soap, laundry powder, sanitary towels, deodorant, and toothbrush/toothpaste.
We also used the distribution of these kits as an opportunity to provide a legal education session to the women in the three centres. This is an important element of support to provide to women in incarceration, because all too often, they are incarcerated due to a lack of information about their rights. This leads to women doing things like paying to secure bail when asked (because they don't know that it is free), or signing false confessions because of being illiterate.
We held these sessions in partnership with the Ministry of Gender and the Correctional Centres.
Following the distribution of these kits and training sessions, we held a Christmas celebration for the women, including music and the handing out of lappa's - a long piece of fabric tied around the waste. In Freetown, we were able to leave the celebration karaoke set and speakers with the Correctional Centre as a donation to provide the women with an activity to support their ongoing mental wellbeing. "We do not have anything here for recreation and this is affecting our mind."
AdvocAid campaigns for Sierra Leone's Correctional Centres to be able to provide the specific support that women need, but until this is happening, it's vital that women receive sanitary and hygiene items for their health and wellbeing. On behalf of the women and girls we work with, thank you for your contined support. Each and every donation helps us provide women and girls with the support they need to improve their wellbeing.
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