In the framework of its Gateway to Justice (G2J) Project, iPeace organized on Tuesday 26 September 2017 at Mater Boni Concilii Hotel (Huye) a workshop to empower 30 women including members of National Women Council from Gisagara, Huye, Nyamagabe, Nyanza, and Nyaruguru districts. The purpose of the workshop was to equip participants with adequate legal knowledge and skills to address family disputes, child protection and land issues, which appeared to be the top three issues that Rwandans face in the districts covered by G2J Project.
Opening this workshop, Mr. Kagabo Joseph representing the Mayor of Huye District, commended iPeace's legal aid to Huye people. Mr. Kagabo said that access to justice is fundamental for the protection of citizens' rights. That is why it is one of the top items on the agenda of Huye District. He requested the participants to take advantage of the training provided by iPeace's experts and to use the knowledge and skills they receive in preventing disputes not only in their own families but also in their communities. Closing his remark, Mr. Kagabo promised that the district will continue to work closely with iPeace to strengthen access to justice and good governance.
This one-day workshop was organized in three parts. The first part facilitated by Mr. Yves Sezirahiga consisted of taking participants through the provisions of the new Family Law of Rwanda. In fact, since August 2016, Rwanda has got a new law governing family and persons. This law abrogated that of 1988. During his intervention, Mr. Sezirahiga highlighted the new changes brought by the new law, such as the timeframe for birth registration, requirements and procedure to change someone's names, rights and obligations of spouses, conditions and procedure for divorce, etc.
The second part, facilitated by Mr. Paulin Muhozi, explained to participants in layman's language the provisions of various laws that protect the child interest. The facilitator focused on the Law No. 54/2011 of 14/12/2011 relating to the rights and the protection of the child. Among other things, he emphasized that the law protects children against discrimination based on their birth condition. He reminded participants that the law prohibits terms like legitimate, illegitimate or natural children basing on whether they were born in or out of wedlock. In addition, participants discussed different forms of labour and treatment prohibited to be imposed on children.
The third training topic tackled issues related to land. Dr. Yves G. Muhire who facilitated this part focused on the rights of women to own and dispose of their land. He explained the process to get one's piece of land registered. At the end of the training, each of the participants was awarded a certificate.
Gateway to Justice is a project run by iPeace since January 2016 in partnership with Huye District in order to provide legal services to vulnerable people in Huye and its neighborhood.
From January 2016 to April 2017, iPeace handled 191 cases. Among these cases, 80% were submitted by women from Gisagara, Huye, Nyamagabe, Nyanza and Nyamagabe. The biggest number of clients originated from Huye district where the project operates from. However, since July 2016, it was observed an increasing number of people coming from districts as far as Nyaruguru and Gisagara.
It is important to mention that, unlike many other similar projects, iPeace’s Gateway to Justice Project not only works to help people settle existing disputes, but also empowers them with relevant legal knowledge and skills to prevent conflicts.
The people who approached iPeace received different types of support. The majority (57%) were assisted in drafting courts briefs. This concerns mainly people who had their cases pending before courts waiting for hearing. As they did not have enough legal knowledge, iPeace hired lawyers to assist these people in drafting effective courts briefs. Nevertheless, clients in such situations are expected to present their cases themselves before courts. However, for a very few cases, especially cases involving children, iPeace not only provided court briefs but also hired lawyers to represent the client in court. To benefit from such a court representation, the client must be very poor and demonstrate inability to take up themselves the case. Another category of support included following up clients’ issues before administrative authorities. This concerned mainly people who had won cases in courts but for one reason or another local authorities took long to enforce the courts decisions. For this kind of cases, iPeace contacted local authorities to find out the reasons for such delayed judgment execution. The last category of intervention consisted of providing free legal information and advice to the people.
iPeace commends the District of Huye and other relevant authorities who facilitates iPeace’s work in providing the so much needed legal support to the people. It is this kind of support that allowed iPeace to complete more than 82% of all cases they handled. iPeace is currently discussing with other districts in Northern province in order to expand its activities.
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