Today I want to feature an amazing organization in Sierra Leone, called Timap for Justice. Timap for Justice is an innovative organization aiming to provide basic access to justice to the people of Sierra Leone. Timap for Justice formed to address the shortage of lawyers in the country, and employs and trains community-based paralegals instead of lawyers. They employ 25 paralegals who work in 13 paralegal offices in various parts of Sierra Leone.
Their model is unique and effective, not only because of the reliance on trained paralegals, but also because of the combined approach of education, mediation, negotiation, organizing, and advocacy they utilize. Paralegals mediate conflicts between individuals (e.g. family arguments, property disputes), and also engage in community-level advocacy (e.g. discussing various schooling and health issues with local non profit groups). Sierra Leone has a dualistic legal structure, meaning there is a formal legal structure as well as a customary/traditional legal system. Paralegals are trained to solve problems through both channels. The program also has centrally located lawyers/directors who employ litigation and high-level advocacy in certain severe cases, or where litigation can have a broader impact.
Very few organizations combine all these approaches, thus allowing Timap for Justice to have a truly effective, innovative model – which champions a holistic approach to fighting human rights violations, rather than a myopic focus on legal issues. Paralegals are advocates and mentors, and become truly a valuable part of the communities they work with.
I’d encourage you all to check out Timap for Justice and acknowledge the great work they are doing. It’s important to recognize and raise awareness of grassroots organizations which are often doing amazing work, especially since they originate within the communities they work in – but so sadly, often lack attention due to the dominance of larger Western NGOs which gain prominence in the the media’s eyes.
Photo Credit: here