TODAY, the Women’s Legal Aid Centre (WLAC) marks 30 years since its establishment.
It is palpable that in the three decades of its existence, the organisation has managed to serve the purpose and bring new hope to women and Tanzanians in general.
As Tanzanians join WLAC to celebrate this day, it is also good to remember some of the major activities and issues that the organisation has managed to perform in the past 30 years.
In its three decades of existence, WLAC has enabled 92,491 women, children, and refugees to access justice through provision of legal aid services.
The most prevalent cases relates to land and property rights claimed through matrimonial, inheritance and land matters.
There was a notable change between 2009-2018 which saw an increase in the number of women asserting their rights in cases of marriage dissolutions.
Previously women were walking away from marriages empty handed. Litigation case to challenge the share of the Widow WLAC filed a constitutional case in the High Court of Tanzania, Misc.
Civil Cause No. 10/2016. The Petition sought court declaration of widow’s entitlement to half of matrimonial property upon death of husband.
The case aims at challenging the applicability and the practice whereby the widow contribution is normally not set apart from the whole before division of deceased’s estate, thus the widow’s contribution forms part and parcel of the deceased’s estate.
In doing so women’s rights (property rights) are denied as the whole property, including the separate share of owned by the wife, is termed the “estate of the deceased”.
Subsequently, a majority of women are left homeless after the death of their husbands because the house are always sold and divided amongst heirs which may not include the wife.
Establishment of Gender Desks in collaboration with Tanzania Police Female Network (TPF Net) In 2009 WLAC in collaboration with Tanzania Police Female Network (TPF Net) piloted the establishment of Gender Desks at Police Stations.
A total of 280 Police Officers were trained on Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) and how to handle such cases.
The implementation of the Gender and children desks was replicated by Police Force in collaboration with other stakeholders to other regions to ensure women and girl survivors of VAWG are appropriately attended to and receive dignified services.
Prior to such training these cases were poorly handled and there was no confidentiality which did not inspire trust in women to report such cases. Juvenal Criminal justice/children in conflict with the law: At least 758 children in conflict with the law were assisted in achieving access to justice in the Juvenile Court.
In 2012, WLAC collaborated in a UNICEF funded a small-scale Legal Aid Programme for children in conflict with the law (“LAP”) which initiated with a Pilot Programme (“the Pilot”) and ran from July 2012 to June 2015.
It was a three tier programme which provided legal aid, representation and information to children in conflict, on bail or on remand, at court or at three detention centers in Dar es Salaam.
The Programme has since been scaled up to assist in children in the Kigoma Region with a support from UNICEF since 2018.
Moreover, children in conflict with the law at Upanga Retention Home in Dar es Salaam, a recipient of the aforementioned LAP, continues to enjoy legal assistance through WLAC Legal Aid Programme.
On public awareness and engagement Over 10,000,000 people have been reached through raising awareness of legal and human rights through campaigns, training, community meetings, and media (mostly radio) Community Empowerment and sensitization: a tool end Violence against Women (VAW).
The “We Can” Campaign (in Swahili “Tunaweza”) had a unique approach since community members are given an opportunity to identify what they feel is a problem in their communities and from there solutions were sought to address the named problems or issues.
A total number of 53,828 people (24,579 male and 29,249 female) were registered as change makers, in other words people who are committed to work in the community to end violence against women.
Women land and property right: Ifakara WLAC conducted awareness raising programmes with respect to land and property rights, with particular focus on women’s right to own land in 8 villages in Michenga and Ihanga ward at Ifakara Kilombero.
This has helped to ensure that women are owning, controlling and benefiting from land and other natural resources.
One of the young women who benefited with the WLAC Program on land ownership explains: “I am so grateful for the training provided by WLAC on women rights on how to own land in Tanzania,”.
Paralegals for community access to justice WLAC is a pioneer of utilizing paralegals in Tanzania; The Paralegal Programme was initiated in 1992 whereby WLAC established paralegal centres in all 24 regions in Tanzania main land.
The paralegals assisted communities in hard to reach areas to access justice through provision of legal assistance and awareness raising on campaigns on legal and human rights.
In 2005 WLAC in collaboration with paralegals began advocating for paralegal recognition in Tanzania.
As result of the advocacy initiatives for the recognition of paralegals, in 2017 the Legal Aid Act enacted and recognized paralegals as Legal Aid Providers.
Under the Legal Aid Act 2017 paralegals have legal mandate to provide legal aid services within community.