From left to right: Philippa Muchemwa, lawyer LRF, Maria Selin, Sida, Felista Akim participant in the workshop, Maud Isala, assistant lawyer LRF and Tsitsi Midzi, Sida.
Photo: Kristin Andersson/Sida
Education for human rights
The constitution of Zimbabwe, established in 2013, acknowledges and protects several rights of women, men and children. Though, people in general are not fully aware of the provisions of the constitution. People don’t know where to turn to have their rights fulfilled and they often lack the possibility to have someone found responsible if their rights are being violated.
To strengthen the situation regarding human rights in Zimbabwe, civil society organizations like the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF), with support from Swedish aid, arrange workshops with the aim to educate people in legal aspects that apply to them and how they can access justice respectively. The purpose is that everyone get to know their rights so they then will be able to claim, exercise end enforce them.
In Chitungwiza, a satellite town approximately one hour outside of Harare, a workshop targeting key stakeholders in the community is taking place. The participants are, among others, local ministry representatives, politicians and spokespersons for elderly and people living with HIV. The theme for the workshop is Human Rights, the constitution and domestic violence. It is clear that the education is needed since only five out of 30 participants say they have knowledge about the constitution’s content and the group can only name a few of their stated rights.
Through brainstorming, roleplay and a small test the participants’ knowledge increase after the workshop. One participant is Rudo Chenenga, chairperson of the Chitungwiza Old People Association. She tells us how LRF has given her and the organization knowledge about elderlies’ rights, as well as legal service to members who have needed it.
After the workshop LRF is handing out pamphlets with information about the topics discussed, so that the participants can bring the knowledge home to their organizations, ministries, relatives and friends.
One important factor in accessing your rights is to know what to do and where to turn if the rights are being violated. But often people cannot take their cases to court due to high fees. LRF is therefore offering free legal service to poor and vulnerable people, whom often live in the countryside, without access to the legal system. One person that has benefitted from the service is Felista Akim, who tells us her story:
In 2008 Felista’s mother passed away. As the mother was a single-parent, Felista’s aunt and grandmother took over her house by claiming that the mother didn’t have any children that could inherit her. By that, Felista and her siblings lost the house they had a legal entitlement to. LRF made Felista understand she had to press charges towards her aunt and grandmother so that the case could be investigated and taken to court, a process LRF helped her with. It took a long time but in the spring of 2015 the court gave Felista and her brother the right to the house, while their aunt got convicted to community service at a local clinic. Thanks to the court ruling and the help from LRF Felista can now have the ownership of the house changed and finally get access to the heritage from her mother.