When she accompanied her husband to Sierra Leone recently, Britain out-going Prime Minster’s wife, Cherie Blair, was impressed with members of the Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights and Social Justice (LAWYERS) after a brief rundown on the association.
During an informal discussion with Mrs. Blair at the Freetown International Airport, the LAWYERS’ six-person delegation: Jamesina King, Glenna Thompson, Melinda Davies, Bintu Alhadi, Frances Issa and Jeneba Kamara, gave a run down on the organization’s history and projects undertaken since inception.
These they highlighted, included the Female Prisoners Watch 1 project; the Moyamba Prisons Project, and the Short Application for Bail and Acquittal project. The role the organization had been playing in reviewing the three proposed gender bills, and also the outreach programmes the organization was engaged both within Freetown and the provinces to educate and sensitize the Sierra Leonean populace on human rights, legal literacy and gender related issues formed part of the discussions.
In her address, Mrs. Blair intimated on how impressed she was with members of LAWYERS who had identified the need for gender parity and women empowerment in Sierra Leone and had sacrificed part of their busy schedules to correct the human rights situation in the country.
She advised members to keep up the good work as the law could make a great difference in any country.
Moreover, she said “the association is also important because it can serve as a forum of interaction among female members of the legal profession”.
Members went on to discuss some of the problems that the judiciary was fraught with, and expressed the need for the setting up a legal clinic in Sierra Leone which, in their opinion, would facilitate access to justice.
Additionally, members discussed the need for support of released prisoners which could prevent the repetition of crimes as well as rehabilitate the individual in order for him or her to play an active role in the society.
The LAWYERS narrated some of the challenges they were faced with both as female practitioners aiming at upholding the law and also as human rights activists geared towards improving the legal, political, economic and social standing of women and girls in Sierra Leone.
Lots of questions were thrown at Mrs. Blair, such as whether her status as the wife of the Prime Minister of UK affected her work as a barrister and how “she balances her career and family life”.
The occasion was climaxed by the conferment of a honorary membership of LAWYERS on her.
She was very excited and accepted to become a member of LAWYERS without any hesitation. She went on to stress that the reason she was passionate and proud of becoming a member of the organization was because the organization was launched by the late Mrs. Patricia Kabbah.
The meeting came to a close with Mrs. Blair committing members of LAWYERS to continue to maintain contact with her and to keep her posted on subsequent developments.