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LRF hosts national conference on access to justice and human rights

LRF hosts national conference on access to justice and human rights

Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) will from the 5 to 6 November host a National Conference on Human Rights and Access to Justice in Harare. The National Conference on Human Rights and Access to Justice will gather two 200 delegates representing civil society organizations (CSOs), government institutions, members of the diplomatic corps, independent commissions, academia and other important groupings. The Conference gives delegates a platform to discuss the key human rights issues which Zimbabwe needs to look into in the next five  years in relation to access to justice, gender, corruption,  peace and reconciliation.

The Zimbabwean government has pledged to respect the fundamental human rights and open up democratic space. Thus, the conference sets the tone for civil society organizations to engage with government and share ideas on grey areas on the thematic areas. The National Conference provides state institutions with an opportunity to share on the measures they have been taking in resolving human rights and access to justice challenges.

The Conference will be officially opened on Monday 5 November 2018 by the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs; Honourable Ziyambi Ziyambi. Keynote addresses will be delivered by two renowned speakers from Kenya and Malawi. The first keynote speaker will be Justice Charles Mkandawire who is President of the Commonwealth Judges and Magistrate Association and Judge of the High Court in Malawi. He will present on the opportunities and challenges in enhancing human rights and access to justice in Africa.

Kenya’s prominent lawyer Honorable Dr Otiende Amollo who was the face and brains behind Raila Odinga’s successful Presidential Petition, who is also a Member of Parliament, will present a paper on human rights and corruption in Africa. Dr Amollo is well known for his involvement in National Super Aalliance coalition’s court battles challenging the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The National Conference on Human Rights and Access to Justice will also have panel discussions on the thematic areas. Panellists have been drawn from government, independent commissions and civil society organizations.

LRF National Director, Lucia Masuka-Zanhi said discussions will focus mainly on the key human rights issues confronting Zimbabwe and what has to be done to address these issues. She said the Conference will create a platform for CSOs and State institutions to explore opportunities for collaboration in advancing Human rights in Zimbabwe in the next 5 years. She added that the Conference will also give an opportunity for CSOs to gain understanding of the position of state institutions regarding some of the human rights issues Zimbabwe is facing. This will help organizations shape their advocacy strategies which will be informed by the discussions which will take place during the conference.

The Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) was established in 1984 with the aim of providing legal services to the poor and marginalized. We desire that everyone enjoys their rights, hence we disseminate legal knowledge, identify policy issues that stifle the enjoyment of human rights and work with affected communities to influence policy changes and increase citizen participation. Conscious of the importance of service providers in justice delivery, we also aim to ensure complete access through training so that everyone receives fair treatment according to the law.

Engagement training pays off for Epworth residents

Engagement training pays off for Epworth residents

Trained volunteers are positively impacting on the lives of people in their communities. Two volunteers trained by the LRF an impact in Epworth that will reverberate for generations to come. The two empowered residents to demand their rights from duty bearers and to engage them on governance issues.

Residents in Ward Seven, Epworth in Harare feared being evicted from the land they occupied because it was not regularised by the Epworth Local Board. However, after they received training on their rights and how to engage with the authorities to demand their rights, the residents chose committee members to approach the local authority to negotiate for the regularisation of the land.

Epworth is a hotbed for poverty and corruption as local authorities capitalise on the ignorance of the poor to deprive them of their rights including unreasonable and illegal evictions.

Armed with negotiating and lobbying skills, residents approached the local authority, councillors and their MP in a bid to have the land regularised so that they could build permanent home structures for their families and descendents without fear of eviction. They were successful.

The area was regularised and stands were officially surveyed and those whose places were unfortunate to fall in the paths of electric poles, roads and sewer systems were relocated to appropriate places without much ado.

Residents can now sleep easy knowing that they have officially secured places to build homes for their families and descendants.

The LRF brings together citizens and duty bearers

The LRF brings together citizens and duty bearers

The LRF managed to bring together two erstwhile adversaries—council and residents to dialogue and find common ground to deal with challenges affecting communities in the City of Gweru.

The LRF conducted meeting to reflect on the challenges and successes related to citizen participation and the need for dialogue between citizens and residents. The meeting was attended by residents and the Gweru Residents and Rate Payers’ Association and council representatives including the mayor himself. The mayor expressed satisfaction with the programme and its impact on both council and residents. He highlighted that engagement and accountability meetings facilitated by the LRF enhanced relationships between duty bearers and rights holders.

As a result of the engagement, council started the process of feedback sessions aimed at providing information to community members on their operations as well as strengthening the relationship between the city council and the residents.

Armed with advocacy and lobbying skills from the LRF’s training workshops, the residents and their respective associations presented their issues in a constructive and non-violent manner embraced by the duty bearers, and consequently significant progress ensued in addressing residents’ problems.

The LRF had engaged Gweru Residents and Ratepayers association to strengthen the capacity of residents to engage and demand accountability from council and other duty bearers.

The chairperson of the residents’ association was happy and satisfied with the support and trainings they received from the LRF and the subsequent skills gained: “Now we know the best way to engage with the council; we appreciate that when we are on good talking terms much can be achieved. Now we know that advocacy is not confrontation, it’s dialogue.”

The mayor lauded the importance of building and enhancing citizen participation, saying council can only survive when it works with the people and if the people are ready to work with council, a better city could be achieved.  Further, the mayor praised the residents’ association and the LRF for suggesting solutions and mobilizing people to participate and to pay rates. This indicates that citizen responsibilities are important aspects of local governance and local economic development. “Now we don’t see the resident’s association as external members, but as part of the council,” the mayor said.

Impacting rural communities through legal education

Impacting rural communities through legal education

Most rural communities have a problem in accepting the position at law which allows a widow to remarry and continue to live at her deceased husband’s homestead with her new husband.

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