Legal and Civic Education

A 2016 evaluation of the work of the LRF found that the LRF has helped change lives in a variety of ways through making people aware of their rights and training them not only to claim those rights but also to assert them. Through its legal education programme, LRF has lent credence to Nelson Mandela’s assertion that “education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”. A holistic approach was taken to the community sensitisation so that both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations were helped to understand the legal implications of their actions.

Participants at an outreach in Mutoko

Legal education participants by gender

Legal Education participants by geographical location

Topics identified through needs assessments and subsequently addressed during outreaches and workshops included birth certificates, children’s rights, civil and political rights, HIV and the law, inheritance, marriage and the law, socio-economic rights, sexual abuse and the writing of wills. The LRF’s legal education contributed to positive changes in behaviour and attitudes among community members as demonstrated in the feedback from beneficiaries below:

“Being a widow was more like a crime; relatives would take all the property as well as controlling your life, but the LRF liberated us.” (A woman from Gutu) “My late father was a member of the Johane Marange sect. He had three wives other than my late mother. Due to ignorance of the law, I intended to drive them from my late father’s plot. However, as a result of this meeting I have acquired legal knowledge and will not do anything outside the parameters of the law. Thank you LRF for such a programme. Please extend this to other places.” (Mutoko) “Since we started working with the LRF, we have seen a lot of people registering property and reporting cases of human rights violations.” (Bindura Urban Community Development Trust Legal Officer) “We sometimes conduct outreaches with the LRF and immediately after conducting the outreaches we record an increase in the number of abused people who report cases to the police.” (Assistant Inspector for the Victim Friendly Unit, Nyanga)

LRF Mutare paralegal Philip Mwatsika conducting an outreach

Community Outreaches

Outreaches are conducted in such a way that people meet for a short time and therefore have the benefit of being more easily slotted into people’s timetables. All people, regardless of gender, age and political affiliation, are given equal opportunities to participate and encouraged to help in the promotion of a culture of respect for human rights.

St Marys Nyanga – men and women studying the pamphlets distributed

Statistics show that 20% of the people who visited the LRF for legal advice came after attending outreaches, and 24% were referred by relatives who had attended. 46,061 people were reached, of whom 62% were women. 62% of beneficiaries lived in more remote areas routinely overlooked in the provision of information or services. Notable immediate results of the outreaches include an increase in number of people seeking to register births and a reduction in incidences of domestic violence cases in some areas, A specific example was a 40% increase in the number of people applying for birth certificates reported by the office of the Registrar General in Chigiji, Mashonaland Central.

Participants at an outreach in Budiriro

Outreaches in prison

Outreaches are conducted in such a way that people meet for a short time and therefore have the benefit of being more easily slotted into people’s timetables. All people, regardless of gender, age and political affiliation, are given equal opportunities to participate and encouraged to help in the promotion of a culture of respect for human rights.

Impact of Outreaches

The outreaches generally raised awareness on unlawful conduct, often a result of ignorance, culture or tradition.

“I used to be very abusive towards my wife but as a result of your education sessions, I now resolve our disputes in a better way. I have become good at cascading basic legal information to others wherever I am.”

“I am pleasantly surprised that the rights of widows/widowers are the same. I encourage all of us to inform others about this when we get to our respective villages” (Councillor)

Highlighting the contribution of the LRF in reducing incidences of domestic violence, one participant during a focus group discussion said:

“Men are now aware that if they beat us we report to Room 1 and the women are also now aware that if they beat their husbands they will report to the same room, so we are no longer beating each other.” (Gamba villager, Gwanda)

One-Day Community Leaders’ Workshops

The workshops targeted traditional and community leaders, equipping them with knowledge to apply a human rights-based approach in the conduct of their duties and act as watchdogs. The LRF demystified the law and helped vulnerable people to understand that they could access free legal assistance. An anti-domestic violence committee was formed in Mutoko after the LRF’s intervention where they are resolving some incidences at community level.

Role Play during a workshop in Seke

People with disabilities at a workshop in Murehwa

In the Marange community in Manicaland people are slowly abandoning the practice of marrying young girls as the community leaders are now advocating for an end to child marriages.

“After learning about child abuse, we no longer allow anyone to marry our young girls. We are announcing at all community meetings that early child marriages are wrong, as a result the cases of early child marriages have significantly gone down.”

“After receiving legal education, I no longer tolerate any form of abuse in my community; I make sure that people report to the LRF or to the police. We were taught that we have a mandate to protect human rights as community leaders.”

“Learnt about Customary Law inheritance how 1st and 2nd wives benefit from husband’s estate and those children from 1st and 2nd wives share equally.”

“We thank you (LRF) for bringing us this knowledge; I didn’t know that the Constitution had laid down so many rights. The last time I heard about my rights was during Copac.”

“Please come back and teach our children as well. They need to be educated on issues to do with child rights and inheritance as they affect them as well.”

Participants doing group work during a workshop held at Crossdale Primary School

Training of Community-Based Organisations (CBOs)

The LRF embarked on activities designed to enhance the sustainability of its community-based work by building the capacity of selected CBOs, at this time specifically in Nyanga, Zvishavane and Chiredzi. Working from the premise that CBOs play important roles in communities and can be agents of change at community level, the training included project management, financial management, good governance and advocacy. During the lifetime of the project they will be assisted to link their communities with decision makers and employ practical advocacy strategies to bring about desired change in their communities. To date the LRF has worked with three CBOs and trained 57 members, 27 of them women.

Conversation cafés

Conversation cafés provide a platform for youth in communities to come together to discuss legal issues affecting them and the community at large. Although issues raised as challenges by the youth varied from place to place, the issue of child abuse and child marriages emerged from all discussions across the country. Other common issues were drug abuse, domestic violence, high unemployment and school drop-outs. The problems of corruption among public service officials and poor service delivery were identified as contributing to human rights violations. The challenges raised during conversation cafes were then escalated for discussion during outreaches and workshops as well as informing the LRF’s advocacy work.