At the British Council hall yesterday, the Sierra Leone Market Women’s Association (SLMWA) with support from the Justice Sector Development Programme (JSDP) launched their first handbook book “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (ADR) which strategises ways of settling disputes in the markets.
In his keynote address and lunching the handbook, Vice President Solomon Berewa said the step was very important as most trade organisations preferred to settle disputes in their own way because they were less expensive and did not take too much of their time.
Justice, the Vice President added, “is part of human rights though it can be stifled because of certain reasons,” stating further that in some countries most judges advised that parties involved in conflict to try and settle the matter outside court and so it was better that the market women had taken this type of initiative to settle their disputes.
Mr Berewa explained that justice in the formal judiciary system was different to that of the one in the book, as in the judiciary the methods used was that they tend to look for facts through the rules but the system employed in the book did not apply complete rules.
The advantages of the handbook, he went on, “is that the method is cheap as you don’t need to employ the services of a lawyer, and no fine is levied, it also does not have technicalities as the judges are elected by yourselves [market women] and the market women do understand the whole system”.
Urging that the book should not be read as an indictment to the judiciary, as this was not a way to say the court system was not good but human beings were striving for justice through the cheapest and fastest ways.
He also encouraged all traders to embrace the book as “[it] is not only for women but all the traders”.
Giving a background of the book, SLMWA’s Secretary General Marie Bob- Kandeh said before this time market women had been settling disputes among themselves through various means.
Explaining further she said a survey was conducted by JSDP on how informal sector did settle dispute among themselves and the method which the market women used was identified, and so they were asked by JSDP to seek the services of a consultant so that they would put into writing not only for the market women of Sierra Leone but for other organizations.
The book refers to the availability of mechanisms outside of the more formalised state structures that have been established to dispense justice. The JSDP recognizes the importance of ADR mechanisms to the majority of the population in Sierra Leone as a system that can provide access to affordable, speedy and fair resolution to disputes.
JSDP therefore commissioned a study of the SLMWA, which revealed that most market women turn to the executive members of their association for mediation on certain issues and this system could be adapted to be more responsive to human rights standards.
Subsequently, an information, education, and communication handbook was developed, with the active participation of SLMWA, to serve as a guide in their dispute settlement.