Posts Tagged ‘OSIEA’

Day Two  (Wednesday, January 26, 2011)

My meeting with Anne Gathumbi of the Open Society Initiative  of Eastern Africa (OSIEA) has been postponed until tomorrow.  So I’ll take this time to explain what an important partner OSEIA has become to LACE.  I have taken their mission statement from their website, http://www.soros.org:

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. To achieve this mission, the Foundations seek to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. On a local level, the Open Society Foundations implement a range of initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media..

After my first trip to Eldoret in 2006, Dr. Mamlin, Field Director of the IU-Kenya Project, suggested that I contact Fran Quigley, who is now a visiting professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis.  In 2006 he was working for the IU-Kenya Project and traveling between Indianapolis and Eldoret with some frequency.  Fran, as co-founder of LACE, was able to meet with the OSIEA in Nairobi about funding.  I had suggested this meeting to Fran after finding the following article on their website that perfectly described what goals we had in mind for forming LACE .  The article is entitled Ensuring Justice for Vulnerable Communities in Kenya, A Review of HIV and AIDS–related Legal Services, Date: April 2007, Source: OSI, Author: Kristin Kalla and Jonathan Cohen:

“In Kenya, a range of human rights abuses fuels HIV infection among the country’s most socially disadvantaged populations. Abuses such as domestic violence, rape, early marriage, child sexual abuse, and trafficking into sexual exploitation help drive the epidemic among women and girls, and are indicators of the epidemic’s impact on communities and livelihood security. While litigation and legal services can go a long way toward addressing these issues, the vast majority of Kenyans living with HIV and AIDS do not feel able to access the formal legal system, according to Ensuring Justice for Vulnerable Communities in Kenya, a report published by the Open Society Institute Law & Health Initiative and East Africa Initiative. “

Fran has met with Anne Gathumbi on several occasions and after we opened the doors in October, 2008, OSEI traveled to Eldoret and graciously gave us a grant this past year which will allow us to double our clinic by hiring another attorney, administrative assistant and perhaps a paralegal.  This will be the main subject of our meeting tomorrow because we are both interested in the medical/legal partnership.  But, as I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, we want to expand  our services into the villages.

As I believe we are always where we are meant to be, I found a new publication from OSEI that was posted in December, 2010, before I traveled to Nairobi, that described their program for Community-Based Paralegals.  This will also be an important part of our ongoing discussion with OSEI.  The AMPATH program has 57 distribution centers in the surrounding area that serves it

Many of the LACE Board in Indianapolis, that I’ll talk about in detail later, traveled to Eldoret in 2009 and were able to view the operation for themselves and  traveled to a few of the distribution sites.  One of their first suggestions was to develop a paralegal program so that the people in the villages who could not easily travel to Eldoret could be given access to justice, too.

Paralegal programs have been successful in other countries in Africa.  Fran and I were privileged to visit a very successful paralegal program in Tanzania as guests of Abbott Labs through his friend, Andy in 2008.  We flew from Nairobi to Dar as salam where Andy and the attorney director of the program, drove us to  district sites of government in the bush.  I’ll never remember the names of those three villages we visited but all three of them treated us like visiting dignitaries.  At the second site the paralegals brought chairs outside and placed them under the “elder” tree which I have pictured throughout all my readings of African tribal life.  Each of the paralegals told us about their role and an example of how they had helped their neighbors.  This all had to be translated for Fran and I but he did a great job in attempting to make his remarks in Kiswahili.

The paralegals are all residents of the village and have been selected by the other residents for this position of “paralegal.”  It is a voluntary role but considered quite an honor to be able to hear the problems of their neighbors and be able to suggest solutions that are provided by law.  All the paralegals had been trained by a lawyer about basic precepts of their laws and how they might apply in local situations.  One story I remember most was told by a wizened elderly woman in a very animated manner.  As soon as I learn how to add pictures, I will add her beautiful face.  Many women in the village had come to her and complained of an older man who was fondling the young girls and inappropriately suggesting sexual acts.  The paralegal invited the man to come to her room in the district government building because she had to talk to him.  Because of the importance of this position in this village, the man appeared.  She explained to him that the girls were below the age of 15 and the law protects them from this kind of behavior.  He said he would follow the law and she claimed to have no further trouble from him.

It reminds me of what we see in Kenya as well.  There seems to be great respect for the law but most of its citizens have never had access or knowledge of what the law is or how it applies to them.  We have had several success stories at LACE also where as soon as the law was explained, people did want to comply.

In Tanzania we stayed overnight at a beautiful resort that was across the water from Zanzibar.  That night at dinner, our gracious host, sponsored a dinner where the local judges, district officers and their office workers were his guests.  The protocol is very strict about where people sit, who speaks first and last, who sits at the head table and ceremony is very important.  It was a wonderful experience and upon reflection has given Fran and me many insights on our own expectations for such a program in Kenya.

Tonight I will be Carole’s guest at a reception held at the Africa Serena Hotel co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and General Electric for members  of the business community who are involved in numerous energy projects throughout the country.  I will get to meet the Ambassador  after all.  Then we are off to an awards banquet and Carole and two other prominent banking officials will present awards to the top bankers in Kenya.  I made her promise to take me to “Florida” later, too.  Florida is an old style disco and her friend, Tony, tells me that Wednesday night is reggae night.  This club has been in Nairobi since the late 60s and is almost an historical site.   More later.


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