After 16 years in practice as a family lawyer it was time in March 2015 to leave the comforts of Parnell for an “old age” OE. After three months of travel, in June 2015 home became Warsaw, Poland. It is an exciting and vibrant city but “retirement” was never on the agenda.
I am fortunate to have become part of Tag International Development (Tag) as their Director of Girls’ Empowerment.
Tag (www.tagdevelopment.org) is an international development charity that deploys unique humanitarian expertise and proven social models to create sustainable solutions for developing countries. It shares expertise and builds capacities in developing countries around the world.
First advocacy centre
These are exciting times as we work to establish our first advocacy centre in Ndhiwa, Kenya. This is a rural area where we already partner with Team Kenya, a United Kingdom registered charity on girls’ empowerment projects (teamkenya.org.uk). The proposed centre will provide a community-wide resource for advice and support on rights and prevention of gender-based violence, focused on girls and young women.
In rural Kenya, gender-based violence, rape, child pregnancy, early marriage and girls not completing their education is common. The legal system, including the judiciary and police, and the complex male-dominated society create more imbalances against girls and young women.
Recent examples from the Ndhiwa social worker’s report on the girls include:
She was defiled by a school teacher where she was schooling before and the teacher is serving jail for the offence and this was a very good talk since the girl was able to share with other friends and give them tips of what they should do in such cases.
This 15-year-old was engaged into sexual relationship with a man who was a houseboy in a neighbour’s home, due to her desperation to get the basic needs and being an orphan, the man could provide her with some things she needed. Later she discovered that she was pregnant and told the boy who, instead of helping the girl, disappeared from the village and now the girl is asking for assistance of legal action taken upon the victim. The girl is six months pregnant and still in school.
The centre will focus on three main areas:
- advocacy through empowerment education of the girls and young women, educating the judiciary, police and other civic authorities on the rights of young women and raising awareness in the community at large to reinforce and support respect for the rights of young women and girls;
- legal support for its clients, so that victims of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation will have access to the options available for resolution including community-based mediation, restorative justice and the Court process; and
- protection, including provision of counseling for victims of gender-based violence or sexual exploitation.
We are fortunate that we will be able to share office accommodation with Team Kenya in their new office in Ndhiwa but need to raise initial funds to set up the centre with furniture, office supplies, computers, a vehicle – as this is a rural area – and salary to staff the office. Phase 2 will be to raise funds for the ongoing support of the centre.
Getting ‘hands on’
We want lawyers in New Zealand to get “hands on” with the project. Of course update and progress reports will be given but the challenge, both personal and professional will be for New Zealand lawyers to come out and see the centre and help out for a week or more and get involved with the community.
In an article in Al Jazeera on 3 Jan 2016, Gordon Brown, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Global Education and the former Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, said: “2016 must be the year of girl empowerment globally – the beginnings of a worldwide civil rights movement that focuses on freeing girls from the worst persecution in some of the poorest, most remote and most dangerous places in the world”.
For more details on how you can get involved and contribute, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.