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Her old age couldn’t stop the quest for her right


On her farmland several kilometres from the village of Lumecha outside Songea, Nesha Awami is grateful for the dedication of paralegal Wilgis Komba and his colleagues, who supported her by providing legal aid that led to her keeping this land safe from her in-laws who had their eyes set on it.

Old age to many may seem a barrier to many things including self-confidence, but not in the case of Nesha Awami, an elderly widow who earns her living as a peasant and small vendor in the roadside village of Lumecha outside Songea Municipality.

Like countless other women across the country, she faced quite an uphill battle that pitted her against close relatives. When her husband died some of his family believing land he owned with her would be theirs put her through the difficult experience of having to be on the frontline of the fight to keep the land in her hands.

Thomas Thomas, a Program officer at the locally-based African Institute for Comparative and International Law (AICIL), who played a vital role in ensuring Nesha won her right to the 10-acre plot of land left behind by her late husband takes us back to how her situation was.

“Nesha reached out to us regarding a family conflict stemming from inheritance. We determined that, the matter needed to be handled in court and our role began to take shape with extending to her legal awareness and importantly taking through court procedures and building her confidence. In the case, she faced her husband’s family were determined to acquire the land disregarding her stake as the widow,” Thomas explains.

This awful situation plays itself out almost everywhere around the country, however, slowly but surely, more and more, ordinary people, especially women, are becoming enlightened largely because of the presence of paralegals in every district.

At her age, Nesha wouldn’t have stood a chance particularly in an environment, where women socially wield far less power than men, something that often places them at a dire disadvantage.

“My late husband’s relatives were adamant that, the land would remain in their hands, but I stood firm and said in my heart that, I would see this conflict to its end. The case took quite a while and had many faces; I involved local village authorities, but at each step my opponents fought back;

“Finally, I was advised by various people who had pity on me to contact paralegals based locally.  That step culminated in the successful closure of my case. With their help, I sailed through every legal hurdle placed before me.  I can’t thank them enough”, she says.

Speaking from her front porch, Nesha tells us that, on her land which she has continued to farm, she has mango trees, but further to that, she has harvested 35 bags of corn which she says she intends to sell and refurbish her house and rent out part of it.

To other women her message is to always remember that, life is a long journey and foresight is paramount. Despite the fact that, some don’t quite share her view, there are those that have followed her story and are inspired by it.

“There are women around here who come to me to learn how I succeeded against all odds. I feel that they are beginning to realize that, there is no hope in being hopeless when help is readily-available”, she adds.

Yassin Mbawala, a local ward council member, remembers Nesha bringing her case to the body and says, “The council worked hand-in-hand with paralegals entirely to ensure Nesha’s right to her land wasn’t violated. It was quite challenging along the way but we were solidly intent on helping her keep what was rightly hers;

“The council will continue to maintain a firm stance against acts or attempts such as these and the residents of Lumecha can testify to the council’s commitment to protecting the rights of vulnerable individuals including women like Nesha” says Mbawala.

Nesha makes and sells snacks from her home to supplement her income and it’s important to note that she has every confidence that, her land will allow her to dodge the painful arrows of extreme poverty, by continuing to farm and sell crops and in doing so living free of the shadows of her husband’s relatives.

Her story adds another piece to the nationwide picture puzzle of access to justice that LSF strives to increase every day, in which more and more women and men smile with the confidence that their tomorrow will be a whole lot better than their yesterday.

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