On 27th October 2023, BarefootLaw, in partnership with the Gender and Justice Unit, hosted the third of its kind Justice Innovators Recognition workshop. The workshop was held at Sunbird Capital in Lilongwe, Malawi. The event was attended by several people in the justice space, including representatives from the Gender and Justice Unit, Malawi Human Rights Commission, Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Legal Aid Bureau, the Judiciary, among others.
In August this year, BarefootLaw put out a call to the Malawian public to invite individuals and organisations who are using their innovators to further the cause of access to justice to apply and be recognised for the work they are doing. We received over thirty applications, and after a thorough vetting process, four (4) organisations were shortlisted. We then put it to a vote for all Malawians. We conducted a voting exercise on Microsoft Forms, Facebook polls and SMS.
The aim of the workshop was to award the winners from this voting exercise and to provide all the innovators with an opportunity to showcase the work they are doing at the grassroots. The innovators were:
- Hub 22 is a hub based in semi-urban area 22, Lilongwe, in the capital of Malawi. It was founded by Nancy Magwaya, a woman who was passionate about empowering victims of sexual and gender-based violence. As the group grew, they began to focus on other aspects that affect women, such as health and wellbeing, land ownership, income-generating, etc. They do their work by working with different authorities such as social welfare officers, officers who handle gender issues, chiefs and local leaders, the police, etc. These collaborations with the authorities listed above help Hub 22 provide immediate assistance to victims of abuse by referring their cases to the authorities and helping them to follow up.
Chikulamayembe Women Forum
Chikulamayembe Women Forum was founded in 2007 as a Community Based Organisation in Rumphi, Malawi. It is now registered as a local Non Government Organisation. They mainly focus on women and girls rights, food security and agriculture, health, education, governance, economic empowerment, and access to justice, that is for victims of Gender-Based Violence. Despite the fact that women do 70-80% of agriculture and farming, they are not allowed to own land and can only live on their father’s and husband’s land due to cultural and patriarchal beliefs. Chikulamayembe, with the help of chiefs in the area, runs campaigns to educate, inform and empower women on their rights.
Since its inception in 2007, Chikulamayembe Women Forum has successfully provided safe spaces for victims of Gender-Based violence, lobbied with chiefs to allow women to own and inherit land, rescued girls from child marriages among others.
- Timtendere Foundation is an organisation that works to empower and educate young people living on the streets in Blantyre. They also aim to equip them with different skills through music, dance, and vocational skills. They do their work by creating simplified legal content, which is used to educate the children on their rights about the different topics that affect them. In addition, they provide shelter for homeless people.
Youth Response for Social Change
Youth Response for Social Change (YRSC) is an organisation located in Machinga district, bordering Mozambique. Established in 2010, the organisation targets women, girls, and youth. The focus of the organisation is to end child marriages under a project called “Social Transformation for ending child marriages in Machinga”. YRSC also deals in areas of good governance, supporting victims of Gender Based Violence, promoting sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) and improving the socio-economic status of youth through capacity building, awareness and adopting innovative ideas and strategic communication.
YRSC does its work by promoting a mindset change to transform cultural attitudes among gatekeepers, parents, traditional leaders and societal members in order to eliminate norms that promote child marriages. A youth hub comprised of 200 youth, 150 females and 50 males, was therefore established to create a safe space where access to justice and child marriage issues are discussed. They aim at using innovative approaches and beneficiary engagement, resulting in visible impact that makes sure every woman, girl and youth feels safe, accounted for and empowered.
Suzyo Chitete directed the conversation as the Master of Ceremonies. The event began with an introduction of the project by Allan Muwaya, the head of content at BarefootLaw, who spoke on the dangers of not knowing your rights and how it is easy to be bulldozed by the “bullies”. He then went on to introduce to the room the work that BarefootLaw is doing and the tools they can use to get in touch with us to get legal redress. His remarks were then followed by Habiba Osman, the Executive Secretary of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, who was there as a representative of the Gender and Justice Unit, our partners in Malawi.
She recognised the significance of the event, which is a celebration of community activities and an investigation of breakthrough ideas and innovations that ensure justice is delivered, assuring fairness, inclusivity, and access to justice for everyone. She encouraged everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from one another, build bridges and cultivate a collaborative spirit, emphasising that by working together, we can be change agents and establish a justice system that truly reflects our society’s needs and ambitions.
This was followed up by the keynote address by Scader Louis, the Commissioner of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, who expressed her gratitude to BarefootLaw for hosting an event to recognise grassroots innovators who are making life simpler for marginalised communities. She also pointed out that in society, praise is often given to people with influential names while the unsung heroes (those working at the grassroots) go unnoticed. Regardless of this, she chose to honour and applaud all those heroes whose names will never be mentioned for their hard work and dedication. She added that with technological improvements, we now have the potential to level the legal playing field, making justice available to all.
Congratulations to the winners: Hub 22, Chikulamayembe Women Forum and Youth Response for Social Change on their victory of $1000 to support their work.
The event was closed off by remarks from Scader Louis and Sophie Racine, an advocate of access to justice who called upon everyone in the room to take upon cost-effective ways to further the cause of access to justice and congratulated the winners of the challenge. Scader Louis called for everyone in the room to be an agent of change and to ensure that play a part in ensuring that justice is available for all starting with those closest to us.
Scader Louis, Commissioner- Malawi Human Rights Commission.
Habiba Osman, Executive Secretary Malawi Human Rights Commission.
Allan Muwaya, Head of Content BarefootLaw
RESULTS FROM THE JUSTICE INNOVATORS CHALLENGE- MALAWI.
|Chikulamayembe Women Forum
|Youth Response for Social Change
|The Timtendere foundation