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
AdvocAid's Makeni paralegal visiting the twins
AdvocAid's Makeni paralegal visiting the twins

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. 

 

 

A woman detained with her child
A woman detained with her child

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A photo of the hygiene kit items for distribution
A photo of the hygiene kit items for distribution

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.

A photo of the training session on rights
A photo of the training session on rights
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GlobalGiving Report : Supporting 350 Detainees project


Title of Report: Empowering women and girls through Education


One of AdvocAid’s core strategic directions is creating opportunities for women and girls. Many women in Sierra Leone do not have access to educational opportunities. We work to provide women and girls with educational opportunities through knowledge of their rights and the provision of literacy and numeracy skills.


Lack of awareness around rights is a huge barrier for women to access justice. This leads to vulnerability as women plead guilty without understanding what it means, paying bribes for bail or signing confessions that they cannot read.


“I said that I was guilty because my husband told me to.” - MK, AdvocAid client who thumbed printed a confession,which she was not able to read, that was later used against her in trial


Our literacy and numeracy classes are supporting women by increasing their access to information about their rights. One of our clients had the opportunity to take part in these classes and said:


“I am so proud of what I have learned. I never went to school but I will now teach my children and make them go to school.”


By providing educational opportunities to our clients, we are promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls in Sierra Leone.


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 provide women and girls with educational opportunities.


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.




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To mark the significance of Sierra Leone’s Independence Day as well as AdvocAid’s 15 Year Anniversary, AdvocAid celebrated with the women at Freetown Correctional Centre.  The Vice President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Commissioner Madam Finda Koroma was the guest of honour for the occasion.

Madam Finda Koroma gave a speech to those in attendance at the correctional centre in Freetown. In her statement, Madam Finda Koroma acknowledged the power that empowerment can have on the lives of individuals and encouraged the women in the centre to empower themselves while in detention so that upon release they can reintegrate into society with more opportunities than previously.

Madam Koroma praised AdvocAid for our 15 years of service to women and girls who have encountered the law in Sierra Leone. Since 2006 we have supported over 6,000 women through our access to justice and post-prison services. AdvocAid was proudly able to continue our vital legal, advocacy and welfare services during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.

We wanted to attract people of high statuses to the event to make them aware of the challenges facing women accessing justice in Sierra Leone. Throughout the event, the prison band was on display and women in the correctional centre performed a piece on domestic violence created with the support of AdvocAid. Women who are in prison for violent offenses have usually committed the violent act in response to domestic and/or sexual abuse. In our Women Wahala Na Prison study, 72% of women told us they had suffered at least one form of abuse from their partner or spouse prior to prison. The women in the centre also had the opportunity to share their stories with Madam Finda Koroma. As a lawyer, the guest of honour provided legal education to the women who attended the interactive session and promised to channel their cases to the appropriate authorities.

AdvocAid continued to support the women detained in Freetown Correctional Centre on this day by providing a Ramadan gift, hygiene materials, food, and second-hand clothing to end the day on a climax. Amidst the dancing and jubilation that day, the women in the centre said the AdvocAid has instilled hope within them and put a smile on their faces.

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 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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Organization Information

AdvocAid

Location: Freetown, Western Region - Sierra Leone
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @advocaid
Project Leader:
Rebecca Wood
Freetown, Western Area Sierra Leone
$19,133 raised of $30,000 goal
 
298 donations
$10,867 to go
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