The Pathfinders in collaboration with the African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice and the Open Government Partnership on 3rd November 2022 hosted a session on the role of community-based paralegals in enhancing access to justice in Africa.
The session focused on the role of community-based paralegals, their impact and the challenges that they experience. The African Centre shared the initiatives it had undertaken in advocating for matters relating to the legal recognition of paralegals and the urgent need to increase their financing. The advocacy initiatives have been regional through the NGO Forum and African Commission’s ordinary sessions and global through the High Level Political Forum and SDG Summit. The Centre has also conducted research to document the work of community based paralegals.
The conversation also tackled the question of financing for community based paralegals. Focus was placed on the Legal Empowerment Fund which has thus far noted the demand for legal empowerment funding.
The Fund also seeks to demystify grant making so as to make it more accessible for grassroots justice defenders. The session involved experience sharing from Government representative from Sierra Leone who detailed the support the state has made towards the Legal Aid Board.
The government in Sierra Leone was also working closely with civil society organizations who worked with community based paralegals. The panel session elicited responses from experts in the field with many agreeing that indeed more recognition and financing ought to be extended to community based paralegals in Africa.
The panelists were: Atieno Odhiambo (Director, Legal Empowerment Fund), Shahid Korjie (National Coordinator, A-G’s office Sierra Leone) and Annette Mbogoh (African Centre of Excellence and Director, Kituo cha Sheria). The session was moderated by Eleanor Thompson, Namati Sierra Leone.