Community Organization for Mobilization Empowerment–Sierra Leone (COME-SL), a civil society organization working in partnership with various other organizations including ActionAid International-Sierra Leone, Feed the Minds UK and the Justice Sector Development Programme of Sierra Leone is taking the lead in promoting poor and excluded rural women's access to justice in the Baoma Chiefdom of Bo District, Southern Sierra Leone.
In an attempt to address social injustices against women, COME-SL has partnered with Action Aid International Sierra Leone (AAISL), through funding from DFID to implement the “Access to Justice for Women” Project in four village communities in the Baoma Chiefdom. This is in tandem with similar projects implemented by other AAISL partners in the Bombali and Kono Districts respectively.
According to the Director of COME-SL, Sama I. Sandy, this project aims at increasing the capacity and ability of women in the target communities to access justice in both the formal and informal justice systems. He said COME-SL in collaboration with other stakeholders and the target communities are undertaking series of activities that are specifically designed to enhance women's access to justice. According to him, these activities include the provision of a legal retainer for victims of GBV, periodic conduct of community based legal aid clinics, sensitization using social drama, training of women and traditional authorities on key women's human rights instruments, research on customary laws and its effects on women's access to justice and, advocacy for a possible restatement and facilitation of a regular STAR Circle; a learning platform that creates opportunity for poor and excluded rural communities to critically analyze their socio-political, economic, cultural and religious issues in the face of HIV/AIDS with a view to finding solutions.
Sama Sandy went further to state that Sierra Leonean women attempting to access justice are presented with a number of barriers which include high and often unpredictable fines, prolonged trials in the resolution of cases brought before the courts, transportation particularly for residents in remote areas, the medium of communication during court proceedings (English) that is not widely understood in rural areas, deviance and other legal terms are challenges in the process of accessing justice.
Sama Sandy said the above obstacles affect everybody and women have even greater difficulties as they face increased barriers in both local and magistrate courts due to discrimination, lack of information and lower educational levels.
In a separate development, COME-SL in partnership with Feed the Minds UK, is building the capacity of other CSOs and communities in the forms of training and, information, education and communication on human rights related issues in the District.