ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Access to Justice, Preventing and Reducing Gender Based Violence Program


WiLDAF Ghana’s work under Access to Justice and Gender Based Violence Prevention and Reduction work is carried out within the context of Ghana’s evolving Gender Equality and Women’s rights environment. Gender equality is still not a given despite national constitutional and International guarantees of equality. In terms of Access to Justice, though there are legal frameworks on a range of issues including Gender Based Violence and some Justice Administration Resources; (including courts, police service, judicial personnel, state Human Rights Institutions), Access to Justice still elude many especially rural women, poor women, persons with disability, persons living with HIV/AIDS. Ignorance of legal other human rights and laws, ignorance of processes and procedures of justice, apathy to seeking justice from formal state mechanisms, improper application of principles in settlement of disputes by traditional justice mechanisms, remain challenges in the Ghanaian plural legal system. Other challenges of Access to Justice for women include physical inaccessibility to formal justice structures, attitude of formal and informal justice actors to poor people, endemic poverty which disallows the poor especially women from hiring lawyers, high court charges and unequal power relations among community members (between men and women, between ordinary community members and traditional, religious and opinion leaders). Also lacking is the depth of other Services such as access to health care for Victims / Survivors of Gender Based Violence

Notwithstanding these challenges, WiLDAF sees emerging opportunities that present entry points for both civil society and government to work in a complementary manner to help remove the barriers to Access to Justice for women.   The existence of a Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection, establishment of more district courts, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as an acceptable alternative to formal Court procedures, a willingness of traditional leaders “to learn to do things right” present good prospects that can be explored for the realization of a just society in which women and men play relevant roles.

In the light of the above, projects were designed to contribute to addressing some of the challenges identified above.

WiLDAF Ghana’s emphasis in this area is to ultimately contribute to preventing and reducing all forms of violence against women and girls – physical, economic, social, psychological, sexual, harmful socio-cultural practices. WiLDAF Ghana employs a number of strategies as generating evidence to support advocacy, influencing policy and mobilizing key institutions such as chiefs and religious leaders through their own structures to change social norms that cause and or potentiate Gender Based Violence. The WiLDAF Ghana’s Access to Justice Program also embraces behavior change communication strategies to promote positive behaviors which contribute to preventing and reducing Gender Based Violence.  Some key tools in this regard include the development of Information Education and Communication Materials, and Public Information and Awareness campaigns. The program also builds the agency of women and girls victims/survivors as well as those at risk of GBV by increasing their knowledge, skills and abilities through training, provision of information, facilitating leadership spaces/platforms for interfacing with duty bearers, linking them to other spaces for advancement, economic independence, participation and representation in decision making structures. The specific model/tools for developing this agency are the Legal Literacy Volunteers (LLVs), Girls Clubs and Boys Networks. Another component of the Access to Justice Program is the provision of services. WiLDAF provides legal aid (counseling, mediation and legal representation and referral services to victims of Gender Based Violence).  Community Reconciliation Committees also provide community conflict/dispute resolution services.

Specific Gender Based Violence projects under this Program area include the following:

As a leading member of the Coalition that advocated for the passage of the Domestic Violence Act, (a Gender Based Violence legislation in Ghana), WiLDAF designed this project to track the implementation of the Act post its passage. Core activities included a ‘Court Watch activity’ that tracked the usage of the Act by judges and prosecutors through the observation of Court proceedings. Observations from the court watch were compiled into a report and presented to the Chief Justice to inform policy decisions. Another key activity under the project was the comparative analysis of Gender Based Violence legislation in 7 African Countries, simplification of the Domestic Violence Act (adopted and reprinted by the state), the development of prototype Civil Protection Order forms. These were later on adopted by the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection as part of the sample forms to be included in the Legislative Instrument supporting the Domestic Violence Act. WiLDAF is member of the committee drafting the legislative Instrument to support the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. A follow up court watch activity is planned for subsequent years.

This is a Community Based Response to Gender Based Violence project which has been operational for the past 8 years. It is a modification of WiLDAF’s longest project – the Legal Awareness Project (LAP) which span over 15 years. It involves mobilizing community people through the formation of the Legal Literacy Volunteers (LLVs) groups and building their agency through training on Gender Based Violence and its legislation, Gender, Human Rights, Advocacy and Communication, Marriage and Divorce Laws, Child Protection Laws, Laws on Inheritance (Wills and Intestacy) and supporting them with Information Education and Communication Materials to embark on community sensitization, providing legal information and counseling to victims/survivors of GBV,  helping victims/survivors to preserve evidence, referrals to state and non state agencies. This is followed by reinforcement training, training in Alternative Dispute Resolution (particularly mediation) and the setting up of Community Reconciliation Committees to settle minor disagreements. A component of this project also involve engaging chiefs, religious leaders, and opinion leaders to change customary practices and brokering relationships with key state agencies (DOVVSU, the Legal Aid Scheme, the District Courts, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Department of Social Welfare, Girls Education Unit, Health facilities) to facilitate referral of cases.

The project has so far been implemented in 82 Communities in 9 districts. The project has variously been funded by Actionaid Ghana, Cordaid, STAR Ghana, through Crossroads International, Olof Palme Foundation, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) , MDG 3 Fund, and Oxfam Novib.

This was the anchor Project of WiLDAF Ghana for several years (15 years). It was aimed at creating awareness on women’s legal rights and ultimately reducing Violence and discrimination against women and Children. This project provided extensive Family Law Education covering all forms Gender Based Violence, provided legal aid services (counseling, mediation, court representation) to victims/survivors of Gender Based Violence from a centralized location (regional capitals of Volta, Western and Greater Accra regions).  It also enhanced the capacities of district level Volunteers as (district legal Literacy Volunteers) who provided legal first aid to people in their districts. The project was variously funded of funders SNV, Action Aid, World bank Small Grants Program, Rights and Voices Initiative and the Ghana Research and Advocacy Program (G-RAP).

This project was implemented in partnership with Parliamentarians for Global Action, and Care International Ghana. It had policy advocacy and changing social norms components. It engaged Parliamentarians from across Africa who committed to either amending existing legislation and or enacting new ones to protect children from child marriage and Gender Based Violence. Traditional leaders and Muslim leaders and the media were also engaged to serve as change agents in contributing to reducing the menace. This project also analyzed the existing legal framework in Ghana on child marriage and also developed tools for advocacy (a policy brief) and awareness raising (legal literacy series and flip chart).

This is also an ongoing youth sexual and reproductive health rights and violence prevention project. We recognize the challenges that confront in and out of school youth with respect to knowing their rights and having access to services, knowing about the laws including the Children’s Act, and importantly the laws that prohibit sexual abuse. This project is therefore aimed at increasing knowledge, life skills, advocacy capacity and agency of Adolescent girls on sexual violence issues and enabling them to report abuse and access Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Services while at the same time engaging boys to be advocates of gender equality. The project has so far established 10 School Girls Clubs and will be establishing another 20 clubs in the next 3 years with the support of Crossroads International. It will also establish/strengthen 30 Girls Clubs and 30 boys Networks with the support of the Palladium group.

‘Legalities’ Project: We have implemented legal literacy projects for students of Junior High School. These were given information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and laws in Ghana that protect children. The trainees were peer educators. A key achievement of this project was the exhibition/art work by students on Gender Based Violence through the eyes of children.