MoCLA, LSF launch Legal Aid Symposium 2022 in Dodoma
Wednesday, 30th March, 2022: Dodoma
The Ministry of Constitution and Legal Affairs (MoCLA) and the Legal Services Facility (LSF) are co-hosting a two-day symposium on legal aid in Dodoma on 30th and 31st March, 2022.
The symposium themed on, “Legal Aid for a Just and Inclusive Society” aims to probe implementation of the Legal Aid Act, 2017 by analyzing its successes and challenges in the last five years.
Essentially, the symposium involves involve engaging deliberations that allow participants to exchange experiences on various aspects of legal aid in the country in a bid to enhance the establishment of strong, sustainable institutions for the provision of legal aid services in efforts to improve access to justice across Tanzania.
A public exhibition at the event features, amongst other things, a one-stop centre for free legal aid services are also part of the event to enable the visiting public to receive legal assistance at their convenience. The legal aid services are provided by officers from the police gender desk, paralegals, lawyers from the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) and social welfare officers from the Ministry of Social Welfare. Along with these services there are also women entrepreneurs who showcase and sell their products and handicrafts as a means of empowering women.
Speaking with media in Dodoma during the launching event of the Legal Aid Symposium 2022, Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, George Simbachawene , said that the important event brings together stakeholders in the legal aid sector in the country to discuss how to improve implementation of the Legal Aid Act, 2017.
“Before the Act came into force stakeholders in this sector, particularly legal aid providers and paralegals, encountered numerous hefty challenges stemming from not being formally recognized by various authorities vested with ensuring justice. We expect to hear directly from these stakeholders and others about the situation since the enactment of the Act”, said the Minister.
The Minister added that the symposium also aims to hear from legal aid providers from the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Uganda and Malawi about implementation of their versions of the Act. He said that he hoped their experiences will inform the gathering and provide ample opportunity for participants to learn new or different ways of enhancing this vital sector for the overall development of the country.
On her part, LSF’s Chief Executive Officer, Lulu Ng’wanakilala, said that this year’s symposium is one of LSF’s successes that it has garnered through collaborating with other stakeholders especially the government in enhancing access to justice across the country.
“From the beginning LSF has been a formidable partner of the government in ensuring that we work closely in the justice realm including contributing to the materialization of the Legal Aid Act. As a non-governmental organization LSF has done extensive work to expand the availability of legal aid services through legal empowerment. The existence of this Act has been a vital component to us in seeking to broaden accessibility of legal aid services through our partners and paralegals who have been pivotal in providing these necessary services for all particularly for women and girls”, said Ng’wanakilala.
Ng’wanakilala also added that the event is paramount in developing the legal aid sector further because it will help stakeholders to better understand the successes of the Legal Aid Act, its challenges and available opportunities that can be explored to improve access to justice in the country in general, saying that LSF is profoundly honoured to partner with the ministry for the event.
Speaking also at the event, the Registrar of Legal Aid at the Ministry of the Constitution and Legal Affairs, Felistas Mushi said that in the last five years the most pressing challenge has been the registration fees for paralegals, however the government has decided to waiver the fee to enable paralegals to register in large numbers.
“To date we have 757 registered paralegals who operate as legal aid providers and furthermore we have 202 organizations that provide legal aid services which have been formally registered after meeting the pre-requisite conditions. The registration fees that have restrained paralegals have been done away altogether”.
At the event also LSF’s Stakeholder Mapping Report was officially launched by Hon. Simbachawene, and speaking moments before the launch LSF’s Program Manager Deogratias Bwire said the report covers more than 30 stakeholders in access to justice who work to ensure legal aid services reach more people.
“LSF carried out an in-depth research and has produced this report which lays bare the fact that paralegals are among the most important stakeholders in the provision of legal aid services along with courts, the police, local government authorities, religious leaders and traditional leaders. The report indicates that if these stakeholders coalesce then there is a credible possibility of access to justice being improved”, said Bwire.
John Nginga, a legal aid sector stakeholder also added his voice regarding the symposium saying that both legal aid sector stakeholders and the government have collectively worked hard to ensure that justice mechanisms in the country through legal aid services function in an enabling environment by having in place a law that has provided competent oversight over the last five years.
“The government and civil society organizations in the country toiled shoulder to shoulder to facilitate the enactment of this Act. Through the impending symposium I maintain the hope that deliberations will yield important contributions that will strengthen the sector through implementation of the Legal Aid Act”, explained Nginga who is an Executive Director of Tunduru Paralegal Organization.
The symposium has gathered together government agencies, civil society organizations, development partners and other participants thus having under one more than 120 people engaged in providing legal aid services from the mainland and Zanzibar.