17th Feb 2023
It was all pomp and jubilation at the iconic Sarakasi Dome Theater- Nairobi, as 102 Crime Si Poa Justice Warriors graduated as paralegals to lead the charge on enhanced legal awareness and empowerment in their communities. The group, which was drawn from Kibera, Mathare, Kawangware, Kamukunji, Kiambu, and Ongata Rongai sub-counties, joined another cohort of 53 inmates and prison staff already trained and graduated under the same project in the last 3 months.
Joined by their excited family members, the cohort that was competitively picked from the underserved areas of the greater Nairobi metropolis benefitted from a month-long legal training facilitated by key players from the criminal justice sector, lawyers, university law faculty, and law enforcement agencies.
According to Ms. Sylvia Morwabe, Programs Director at Crime Si Poa, the ‘Sheria Mashinani’ (grassroots legal empowerment, leadership, and awareness) project under our access to justice program is underpinned by the belief that communities that are legally empowered are best placed to access, demand and enhance justice and accountability in public life.
The curriculum used for the training was developed in partnership with Strathmore University Law Clinic and with input from the Paralegal Society of Kenya training manual. It covers key areas of the Constitution and the laws of Kenya, the legal system, and how the court system in Kenya works. The main goal of the program is to ensure improved legal and rights awareness and access to justice for communities. One of the key strategies used by the program is to train the community paralegals, who can provide proximate legal assistance to those who might otherwise be unable to access justice.
Halima Guyo, one of the graduates, noted that the training enabled her to gain more legal insights. “I have really benefited from the training, and I am now better equipped and ready to handle legal issues as I serve my Kajiado community,” she said.
Call for paralegals to stand out in the community.
Speakers at the graduation ceremony urged the graduates to fight for access to justice for all. “Access to justice starts with you,” said Senior Principal Magistrate Hon. Zainab Abdul who also doubled as a facilitator during the training. She emphasized that if access to justice was to be achieved for all, then the paralegals must lead from the front. “Continue fighting for communities and access to justice for it has to come from you,” said Hon. Abdul.
Speaking on behalf of the National Police Service which had graciously provided facilitators for the training, Ms. Elizabeth Marube from the Inspector General’s office urged the graduates to go forth and be the change they want to see in their communities. She also welcomed them to partner and continue working with the National Police Service under the Community Policing Department.
Principal Magistrate Hon. Martha Nanzushi, while representing the head of the Community Service Orders at the Judiciary, Justice Diana Mochache, welcomed the team as key partners in the implementation of Community Service Orders and alternative justice systems, especially for petty offenders.
The Director of the Witness Protection Agency through her representative thanked and affirmed support for Crime Si Poa’s work in the criminal justice space. “I take this opportunity to thank Crime Si Poa for facilitating this training and allowing us to be part of it. Let’s continue collaborating to strengthen the criminal justice system and uphold the dignity and sanctity of life for the vulnerable,” she said.
The chief guest’s statement which was read by Mr. Wilfred Nderitu, Senior Counsel and Board Chair, Crime Si Poa. He exhorted the paralegals to fight within moral bounds and not to be used to cause chaos in society. “Battle for just laws, fight for justice in your neighborhood with fairness, impartiality, and integrity.”
In his speech Hon. Justice Isaac Lenaola of the Supreme Court of Kenya congratulated Crime Si Poa for its work in promoting access to justice in society. Intimating the vision of Chief Justice Martha Koome on Access to Justice for social transformation, Judge Lenaola enumerated steps initiated by the judiciary, amongst them, the small claims courts’ digital filling of cases and the increased adaptation of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, which has greatly contributed to the promotion of restorative justice. He stated that all the effort is geared towards the speedy delivery of justice. He implored the graduates to stand out in their approach to justice with integrity. “Being a Community Justice Warrior demands of you, high levels of integrity, commitment, and dedication to servant leadership,” he remarked. He further stated that they should fight for the voiceless in society. “Be champions of just causes, the defenders of justice, the voices of the weak. Your communities expect you to speak up and stand in the gap for those wrongly accused and to ensure that families are not broken by injustices,” he further postulated.
Drawing an analogy from his alma mater, Judge Lenaola urged the graduates to be selfless in their service as community paralegals.
“Just as an aside, The Alliance High School motto was, and remains; “Strong to Serve.” I encourage you all to adopt this motto in your daily lives, and selflessly, and with integrity, serve your communities, your country, and your God, “he advised.
Crime Si Poa and all the beneficiaries are greatly indebted to the Ford Foundation for sponsoring this highly impactful community legal training project.