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James & Balu of Concern 4 Widows Rights – Inheritance laws training for widows to be paralegals

The project seeks to address the lack of awareness among widows in particular and women in general of the provisions in the laws pertaining inheritance and succession of property left behind by their late husbands in Sierra Leone. The lack of awareness of the existence of the laws pertaining inheritance and lack of understanding of the provisions in these laws is one of the main reasons responsible of the violation of widows inheritance rights in Sierra Leone. The project will addressed these gaps by training widows on the all laws pertaining inheritance and succession in order to enable widows to challenge practices that have deprived them of their inheritance right and reverse the trend of dispossession them and their children of property left by their late husbands through litigation in the courts. The project will trained 50 widows on the remaining laws or acts like “The Registration of Customary Marriage Act”, “The Administration of Estate Act”, “The Muhammadan Marriage Act”, “The Legal Aid Act of 2012” and alternative dispute resolution techniques in order to give them the minimum requisite knowledge needed for them to be certified as paralegals by the Legal Aid Board Sierra Leone. Upon their certification the project will also give them guidelines clearly outlining on how they must serve their communities as paralegal when they will be engaged in resolving disputes relating to inheritance, which seriously violate the inheritance rights of women and their children. In addition to their expected increased knowledge gained from their training of the above mentioned laws. They will be empowered with the minimum tools needed like files for case management reporting and uniform vests for identification so that they will be able to carry out their expected responsibilities as community paralegal in an effective and efficient manner within their communities.

The work is important to us because it will enable us be able to continue with a view to completely cover the minimum required training on all the inheritance related laws in order to help these widows gained the adequate knowledge needed of them to be able to provide community legal aid services in respect to inheritance rights related matters in their communities. We want people to know that emboldening widows who are dispossessed from properties left behind to challenge their disinheritance in courts is an important first step in addressing entrenched cultural practices and norms that are increasing gender inequality and chronic generational poverty in Sierra Leone. Our work is seeking to address the issues of disinheritance of widows using the laws that define these matters and to take these cases to courts for an interpretation and application of the rules using the method of bringing legal aid services at community level to stop the dispossession of widows and the violation of their inheritance right in Sierra Leone. Again, our work is dealing with a sub-gender group that have being in seclusion, ignored and issues affecting them has not come out to the public domain for discussion and debate because they have being mitted for decades in national and international development reports, which usually do mentioned about issues affecting their lives. Concern 4 Widows Rights is trying to mobilize them to come out of their isolation and seclusion by giving them a voice, upholding their dignity and protecting their rights in Sierra Leone.

The initial seed grant from TPP was very important to our work because it increased the trainees knowledge of the provision of the main law pertaining to inheritance. We were able to raise awareness among widows that firstly there is a law aimed towards protecting their inheritance rights and to increase their knowledge and understanding of the provisions in these laws among them. The initial grant was able to build and raise public awareness among members of the public about provisions in “The Devolution Estate Act of 2007” through radio programs and for the first time in the country help the public to understand that property grabbing was unlawful and a criminal offence according to the statures in the country and the penalties for perpetrators of such crimes by erecting permanent bill boards highlighting such messages.

The follow-up award will allow us to complete the training of our trainees on the remaining laws other related laws pertaining to inheritance and succession in order to increase knowledge and understanding of the provisions in these laws with additional trainings to further increase the understanding of the criteria required for someone to be eligible to free legal representation. The award will enable us to complete all the minimum training required for them to act as effective and knowledgeable paralegals in their communities and Concern 4 Widows Rights will be certified by the Legal Aid Board Sierra Leone as an organization that is providing free legal aid services in local communities.

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