Community-Based Youth Volunteers Set to Graduate as Paralegals in Western Kenya

Over 80 community-based youth volunteers from Kisumu and Vihiga Counties are set to graduate after successfully completing a 5-day paralegal training. The training organized by Crime Si Poa (CSP), Access to Justice Programme in partnership with Strathmore Law Clinic aimed at strengthening grassroots communities on legal matters and rule of law.

The training held in Kisumu County brought together legal minds from the Judicially of Kenya, Strathmore Legal Clinic, and Article 19 in empowering youth by equipping them with legal knowledge to serve better their communities. 

During the training Hon. Justice Fred Ochieng’ Presiding Judge, Kisumu High Court praised the youth for participating in the paralegal training terming it a huge milestone towards achieving social transformation through access to justice. 

“Paralegal training at the grassroots such as this is paramount towards the realization of the social justice vision of the Constitution. I urge young people attending these training to take them with utmost seriousness and ensure they use the knowledge and skills to serve their communities,” said Hon. Ochieng’ 

He further urged the youth to fully utilize skills gained to do probono legal services, especially to the most vulnerable members of society. He advised them not to take advantage of the training to extort money from innocent members of the society has witnessed before.

“These skills being learned here today are valuable and can be used to impart the communities you are leaving in. Do not use the skills in the wrong way to harm other community members. As paralegals during this election period advocate for peace and harmony,” He added. 

Among the key learnings shared by the judge to the youth, is how to handle a case as a paralegal and ensure justice is served is through meeting deadlines for the case, learning the elements of the case, and ensuring evidence of the case is admissible. 

According to Linah Akoth, Kisumu High Court Deputy Registrar paralegal trainees should grasp court procedures and make sure they know their way around the court and what to do as they help the communities they serve in Kisumu and Vihiga counties. 

“Paralegals should enhance integrity by being honest and ethical when handling cases. There is also a need for paralegals to understand all institutions involved in the criminal justice system such as law enforcement offices and other stakeholders,” She added.

The curriculum used for training paralegals has been developed jointly by CSP and Strathmore University with great inputs from the paralegal training handbook. 

Partnership with the Judiciary of Kenya to Empower Paralegals

The Judiciary of Kenya has donated hundred (100) copies of the Constitution of Kenya to the Crime Si Poa (CSP), Access to Justice Programme. The donation to support the ongoing training of 80 paralegals from Kisumu and Vihiga counties. The support will enhance the legal knowledge of the youth to serve their communities effectively.

While receiving the donation from the Judiciary, CSP Executive Director, Pete Ouko termed the support, timely and a good gesture towards improving access to justice at the grassroots level under the Sheria Mashinani project.

“CSP appreciates the judiciary’s transformative policy of promoting access to justice for the common mwananchi.  We appreciated the support the judiciary has continuously offered the organization during our regular community dialogue forums in different parts of the country,” Said Pete.

During the presentation of the donation on behalf of the Judiciary, the Communications Advisor in the Office of the Chief Justice, Michael Mumo, shared the vision of the Chief Justice in the promotion of access to justice as a pillar in the social transformation of society. 

“The Judiciary appreciated the work Crime Si Poa is doing in the country. We call upon the organization to always reach out to the judiciary for partnerships that enhance access to justice for all,” said Mumo.

Mumo further said the Chief Justice is keen on ensuring the role of the judiciary to empower citizens and vulnerable groups such as children, persons living with disabilities, the youth, minorities and marginalized groups and elderly members of the society through access to justice.

According to Pete, the judiciary has been supportive of the organization through community dialogues and paralegal training of the young members of the community.

“CSP would like to express its sincere gratitude to Hon. Justice Isaac Lenaola, Judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya, initiated the process that led to today’s event. We would further like to appreciate the support of the Kisumu High Court led by Hon. Justice Fred Ochieng and Deputy Court Registrar, Hon. Lina Akoth for graciously attending and motivating the paralegals during their ongoing training,” concluded Pete.

Strengthen Child Protection Law to tame child Abuse in Kajiado County

Cases of child negligence by parents in Kajiado County have become rampant, leading to child rights abuse in the region. Parents have been accused of locking up children in the house while others give underage children drugs (Piriton) to induce sleep, for them to indulge in alcoholism and prostitution.

The cases emerged during an engagement on child protection between Ong’ata Rongai community members, duty bearers, and stakeholders at Talanta Social. The forum organized by our team under the Access to Justice Program aimed at raising awareness on the increasing cases of child abuse and negligence in the community.

According to Madam Veronica, a police officer under the gender office at Ongata Rongai Police Station, high levels of carelessness by parents in the area have seen a surge in many cases of abuse among children.

“Parents have to be responsible for their children. As a society, we cannot allow things to continue as usual while children are suffering. Children’s protection is a mandate for all of us. As law enforcement officers we want to work with the community to make this place a haven for all children.” lamented Madam Veronica.

Dr. luke Chiundu from Nairobi Women’s Hospital, Rongai, further added they have received loads of cases of defilement in the hospital, sexually transmitted diseases among children, and early pregnancies, which he termed a worrying trend that should be curbed immediately.

“If you want to see how a community is a progressive look at how it treats its children. Rongai has a huge problem with child protection that needs a multisectoral approach. Together as a community, we can tame these heinous acts by speaking out and taking actions against perpetrators,” said Dr. Chiundu.

Lydia Githuga, a member of Beacon of Hope and Children Protection Network added that multiple challenges are facing the community and such forums are needed to help talk them out.

“Some of the challenges faced within child protection are child prostitution, early marriages, child labor, defilement, drug abuse, hiding of disabled children by parents, ignoring children with mental disorders,” she said.

Halima Sharif, the representative of People With Disabilities, emphasized that cases of defilement and attempted defilement should not be solved at the community level. Instead, proper court action should prevail, for the children to get justice.

“We urge all parents and especially those with children with disabilities around Ong’ata Rongai to ensure they are protected. “If your child is defiled or molested reach out to us via free tall number 0780000300. We will guide you on the process to take,” concluded Halima.

All stakeholders and community members agreed to work together and ensure child protection is a priority in the community. They also agreed to hold and attend several forums that promote the rule of law in the community.

Promoting Equal Access to Justice In Communities.

By Myra Wairimu

 

Community Dialogue Kawangware

Frederick Douglass once said, “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

One of Crime Si Poa’s core missions is to promote equal access to justice for all. It is central to the establishment of safer-crime-free communities because justice enables people to live in security, knowing that they will be protected and treated fairly by the law. 

The day-to-day reality of “promoting access to justice,” is a little more nuanced and entails numerous parts. 

We focus on ensuring that all communities, especially those underserved, also enjoy their right to access legal education and legal aid services, that justice is not delayed, and that there is a smooth reintegration of return citizens into the community. 

To qualify that a community is indeed in equilibrium, these four factors should exist:

First, there must be fairness in the processes used to resolve disputes, this is defined as procedural justice. Provision of Legal Aid Services and Education are two of the main ways in which communities are empowered to reach procedural justice. Citizens require knowledge of their rights and responsibilities in order to exercise full benefits under the law. 

They also need to be well informed on processes to follow in the event of a conflict with the law. One of the ways third parties can be of aid is by facilitating legal awareness programs. 

For Example, through Crime Si Poa’s legal awareness project, Sheria Mashinani, we have been able to collaborate with various law enforcement agencies to invest in Community Dialogue forums where we enlighten the local mwananchi on the laws that govern him. 

The second aspect, which also has to do with procedural justice; is to certify that the community actually has access to the relevant institutions.  It involves ensuring that legal aid services are available, accessible, and affordable. 

Practically, this would look like training paralegals within the community to bring legal services closer to the people, establishing community-based legal centers, and assigning pro bono lawyers to the different communities. 

A third factor in promoting equal access to justice is fast-tracking the justice system and seeing to it that cases are dealt with expeditiously. After all, justice delayed is justice denied. 

In scenarios where this poses a challenge, pressure should be placed on the courts to deal with cases in a timely manner to avoid prolonged trauma to both the victim and their family or the offender. 

Finally, true justice cannot be achieved if offenders are unable to come back and make meaningful contributions to society. It is crucial that return citizens can easily reintegrate in order to curb the chances of recidivism, which would defeat the whole purpose of the entire justice system. 

Crime Si Poa seeks to make access to justice a reality. We partner with various organizations and individuals to support the reformation, transformation, and reintegration process of past offenders.  

We perform this through our Prisons Outreach, Phoenix project, and Social Enterprise Program which concentrate on helping return citizens get back on their feet by equipping them with skills for a second chance in the outside world.

To join or partner with us in increasing access to justice for communities, consider Giving a donationBecoming a Member, or Volunteering with us

Sexual abuse against disabled people on the rise, more needs to be done

Sexual abuse cases are often very sensitive as they cause grievous damage to the victim not only physically, but more so mentally and psychologically. Unfortunately, the majority of the sexual abuse cases in Kenya often go unreported mainly due to shame.  

There is need for a more hand on approach in the fight against Sexual and Gender-based. Yvonne Nyechesa, a 17-year-old from Rongai, Kenya fell victim to the prying eyes of her neighbour, Jack. 

Yvonne, described by her family as a happy child faced a dreadful fate on the evening of July 24, 2021. As Vyonne was playing outside their house Jack, a 28-year-old man from Burundi lured her into his house where he sexually assaulted her.

The mentally challenged girl did not fully comprehend the gravity of what had occurred. She innocently went and disclosed the events to her small sister despite threats and warnings from the perpetrator. 

Jack, aware of her mental condition, offered Vyonne petty promises in the hopes that she would keep the matter silent. 

“He promised her that he would buy her a cake and soda and told her not to tell anyone,” said the younger sister. “ I could not keep quiet, I had to tell my mom what had happened”. 

The mother was appalled when she heard what had happened to her child and was driven to seek justice. 

“When we got hold of the issue we helped Yvonne get medical assistance at Nairobi Women’s Hospital where she was checked/analyzed and given the necessary medical care,” said Halima Guyo, Crime Si Poa, Community Outreach Assistant in Rongai.

With the help of Crime Si Poa the matter was reported to a police station in Rongai, Kajiado County and had the man arrested for the crime. He is being detained in the industrial area awaiting trial.

“We could not help but feel remorse for Yvonne who during the whole process was oblivious to what was happening and was concerned with other matters that were insignificant at the moment like going back to school,” added Halima.

Only her mother and sister will carry the pain of the ordeal their innocent child and sister went through. However, they will find some solace in the fact that their child will get justice. 

The African Child – A Tribute to Bravery and Resilience

45 years ago, on the 16th of June 1976, twenty thousand (20,000) students in Soweto, South Africa took to the streets to protest.

Their reason was a decree recently issued by the colonial government to the effect that the language of instruction in schools would now be Afrikaans as opposed to English. For the children of African descent who were already struggling to study in a foreign language – English – the decree that they would now need to start learning in Afrikaans didn’t sit well. English they could tolerate as it was deemed an international language, but Afrikaans was simply a language of their oppressor. So the children took to the streets to fight for their right to be taught in their own language and on what was supposed to be a peaceful protest, they were met by police and law enforcement officers who, in a bid to disperse the crowd, opened fire, killing hundreds and injuring thousands in what has now come to be known as the Soweto uprising.

In 1991, the Organization of African Unity initiated the Day of the African Child to honor the bravery and sacrifice of those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976. The day is also meant to raise awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children. 

Looking back on the 16th of June 1976 one thing particularly stands out, the bravery and sheer determination of those 20,000 plus school going children in standing up for their rights and fighting for what they believed in despite the circumstances. Their bravery eventually led to the adults in South Africa and the world over to finally declare “enough is enough” and work together to fight to bring an end to Apartheid. 

Bravery and determination are two things which inherently characterize the African child.  Bravery, to face head on any challenges that life throws their way and a determination so profound that the lack of adequate opportunities or resources is not enough to stop them from achieving their goals.

Take a look at Wangari Maathai, a village girl from Central Kenya who beat the odds and rose to be the first African Woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize; or Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the seventh Director-General of the WTO who rose to become the first woman and the first African to serve as Director-General to one of the largest global organizations. What about Aliko Dangote, Trevor Noah, Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie, Lupita Nyong’o and countless other children of Africa who have risen above the odds to excel in their chosen fields. 

All these serve to show that given the opportunity, the African Child has a lot to offer the world. And so this year, as we celebrate the Day of the African Child and look at the progress made in the implementation of Agenda 2040 for an Africa fit for children, let’s strive to do better. To create equal opportunities and safe spaces for the African child to not only live but also thrive. 

Once this is done, we can sit back and watch as the African Child conquers the world.