In Lamu, barriers leashing women have been many and varied, chocking them to silence and withdrawal.
From lack of justice, discriminatory cultural and social attitudes, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), limited access to education and information, to negative stereotyping. Just a tip.
These barricades are women’s concrete ceiling, now being shuttered because many have legal know-how and confidence to face their aggressors.
The Program for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery (PLEAD) has trained paralegals who have the most contacts with the community.
Women’s interaction with paralegals has changed the game. Women feel insulated and more willing to report on abuses or take proactive steps to block them. Violations differ. It could be about a grabbed parcel, buttered spouse, impregnated minor, police brutality, and many more.
Different activities under PLEAD, like the street law program or free-legal aid clinics—the recent being during the International Women’s Day—have also contributed to this success. The last clinic saw women make most complaints, and it speaks of their passion for justice, not about victimhood.
And as PLEAD seeks four outcomes, the confidence and legal knowledge Lamu women have gained significantly feeds into result four—improved cooperation throughout the justice sector. And this is how: you need a supportive community to crank up prosecution and win cases. You can only get such support from people passionate about justice, like Lamu women.
But it’s not always about suing. Some women, during IWD, said they resolved civil wrangles amongst selves, after learning about the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) during PLEAD training. Taking such cases to court means congesting the system, something PLEAD is countering.
I can only define the strides by Lamu women as breaking away from decades-long shackles.
Mohammed Gumo is PLEAD’s focal person in MUHURI.