The Access to Justice Program being implemented by LSF across the country takes several forms, all of which are effectively designed to minimize the difficulties that, the beneficiaries of justice routinely face when in need of legal aid or education.
One of these approaches that paralegals deploy is mass engagement by way of community groups’ outreach. Tanzanian society is very sociable and people often gather in informal clusters to chat and divulge a wide spectrum of information.
There are also formal groups mostly created by women that aim to empower them economically against the plight of poverty, and such groups present ample outreach opportunity for paralegals.
In the district of Mwanga in Kilimanjaro, Mwanga Paralegal Organization (MPO) headed by Jayna Mwenda, has been very active in reaching out to the district’s residents who are scattered around the villages on the hillsides and the mostly arid savannah landscape that defines it.
From the organization’s office located beside the main road that heads out of Mwanga towards Korogwe and beyond, Mwenda plans out meetings with these women’s groups and often travels several kilometres a day just to reach them.
“We cover quite a vast geographical area and in many cases our journeys are difficult but we keep our heads high because of the noble duty that we have to the general public especially women who are mostly disadvantaged and legal empowerment is their principal ticket to emancipation”, she says.
Women who come together to form groups primarily seek to improve their economic opportunities through facilities such as loans that many have used to very effective outcomes including school fees for their children, home improvement and starting up small enterprises to supplement their household incomes.
These women often run poor households that largely depend on small-scale farming and in a society, where women still face significant social hurdles legal awareness can mean the difference between heaven and earth for them.
According to data from the Kilimanjaro Women Information Exchange and Community Organization (KWIECO), which mentors and oversees MPO, an average of between 1,500 and 2,000 women are reached by legal education yearly through their community groups in the entire region.
These figures reflect both the large number of women investing their faith in economic empowerment groups and a vital niche for paralegals to continue extending legal education. The war against poverty is a daily battle and paralegals exist as a crucial catalyst to help ordinary women to galvanize their determination and drive to improve their own welfare and build better futures for their households.
One such beneficiary of these group outreaches is Zubeda Msuya, a woman of 60 age in the village of Kiruru Ibwejewa and a member of a local women’s group, who following the death of her husband, lost an acre and a half of land that she owned with her husband after her brothers-in-law repossessed it on grounds that the land was effectively theirs, a common claim across the country.