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Lawyers group focus on children in prisons

The Ilala, Dar es Salaam-based group have opted not to follow their usual pattern and provide legal aid services or conduct exhibitions at the Mnazi Mmoja grounds within the City Centre.  

According to their Programme Officer, Nasieku Kisambu, they have decided to abandon these activities today simply because they were not achieving the intending target, which was to reach the large number of women in the society who require them. 

“It must be remembered that our main reason for providing free legal aid services and having these exhibitions on IWD, is to raise public awareness.

However, we were disappointed with the turnout. For our effort last year we only got two clients, so this year our executive council decided to use a different approach to help local women and children,” Ms Kisambu told the ‘Woman’ earlier this week.   It was from this intention that they further concluded to focus on children this year, instead of their customary issues, which are more directly related to women alone.

This is how they came up with the idea of starting with the launch of a campaign today, on children living with their mother’s in prisons, together with juveniles, who have been accused of violating the justice system.   This will kick-off today with a press conference at the Tanzania Information Services (MAELEZO) for the purpose. After the launch, the group will embark on a programme that will continue until May the tenth, which will be the peak of the exercise.

This is another deliberate move by TAWLA, so as to coincide with their twenty-second anniversary since the association was established on this date in 1990. They have been looking forward to these two dates with much anxiety since last year.   It must be remembered that the International Women’s Day was first celebrated by several countries in March of 1911.

This is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, be they national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It was not until March 1975 that the United Nations (UN) began celebrating the event the eight of the month.  

Further, in December of 1977, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by member states. It was advised for this to be done in accordance with each country’s historical and national traditions. This is why this year’s theme, which is being followed locally, is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.”         

During the conversation with Ms Kisambu she explained how TAWLA is making use of the “Inspection Report for Children in Detention Facilities in Tanzania” by the Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG), which was launched last June here in the City Centre. On the basis of this the lawyers intend visiting mother’s with children in local prisons, together with those minors brought there as juvenile offenders.  

Where required they will provide legal aid free of charge and run classes on children’s rights for all those who want them. Over this period, as from today March 8 to May 3, the lawyers’ group, according to Ms Kisambu, plan to completely review the entire national system regarding juvenile justice. From this they will be in a better position to advocate for certain amendments to the laws governing this particular area, so as to ensure that it meets internationally stipulated standards.  

TAWLA’s Legal Officer Julius Titus told the ‘Woman’ that there are many cases of these, “Children who are in conflict with the law.” From research conducted by them and other concerned locally-based NGO’s it has been discovered that these minors, who are 18 years of age and below, have found their selves in such environments mainly because they were unable to defend themselves or were not given the chance to be heard, as outlined in the law of the land.      

“It is completely against the law for someone below the age of 18 to be put into a prison with adults. There are child detention centres specially constructed for them. Part of the problems is because there is a lack of these places in the country. For example there is only one in Dar es Salaam, which is in Temeke District. There is another one in Mbeya Region and a third in Mwanza Region. These are not enough,” Mr Titus said. 

However, he also did say that there is on-going effort by all concerned groups in the country, through advocacy, to ensure that there are more of these centres constructed. He did remain optimistic, for although the task in front of them might appear impossible, which he acknowledges, they have to keep-up pushing for a positive change within this area.

This is why TAWLA is providing legal aid so that the number of children, who are caught in prisons, can at least be reduced, while other efforts are being made to make more over-all advancements.        

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