Increasing collaboration between the formal and informal sector can be a powerful way to build capacity. Key strategies for increasing collaboration between the formal and informal sector include:
Kenya – Linking Chiefs with Other Court Users
The Kenya Women Judges Association (KWJA) is a non-profit, membership association based in Nairobi. The KWJA, which includes as members Kenya’s 19 female judges and more than 45 female magistrates, works to train the judiciary and other key stakeholders on the provisions of Kenya’s Sexual Offences Act and Children Act. As a result, KWJA has trained judges, magistrates, investigators, prosecutors, police child advocates, probations officers, and others on these important laws that protect girls, in particular from sexual violence. KWJA works through “court users committees” to conduct trainings. Court users committees, which involve periodic meetings of individuals who interact with the courts on a regular basis, were established by the judiciary in Kenya to provide a forum of education and consultation on issues related to the courts. In 2009, KWJA conducted trainings around Kenya with these groups, but repeatedly heard that local level chiefs, who had not been included in the trainings, were a critical group because of their important role in addressing crime, particularly in areas outside the capital city Nairobi.
Kenya’s system of administration includes chiefs, who operate at the most local level. (When the devolution provisions of Kenya’s 2010 constitution are implemented, the role of chief will no longer be part of the government administration.) Chiefs are often the first point of contact for anyone who has been a victim of a crime. They often are the first to receive complaints of rape and other forms of sexual violence. It was reported to KWJA that many chiefs were settling cases of sexual assault through mediation and compensation, or through other types of informal case resolution, which then hampered efforts to gain justice in the formal courts. Members of the court users committees reported that chiefs played a critical role in preserving, or not preserving, evidence which then made prosecution of cases more or less difficult. Because of concerns raised about how chiefs were handling cases of sexual violence, KWJA targeted training sessions specifically for local chiefs.
According to reports from KWJA staff, chiefs reacted very positively to the trainings, and were appreciative of being included. KWJA trainings involved trainers from KWJA, from the state forensic labs, and from the state prosecutor’s office. Chiefs particularly appreciated the opportunity to interact and network with these officials from other levels of government. An evaluation of the trainings indicated that the majority of participants, both chiefs and other stakeholders, found the trainings extremely helpful. Participants also reported that the training enhanced their understanding of the law and their ability to implement it. KWJA designs their trainings not only to provide accurate information about the content of the law, but also ensures that the participants have the opportunity to raise concerns and share difficult cases with which they need assistance on the ground. This provides an opportunity for group problem solving and brainstorming. KWJA staff also reported that chiefs were changing their behaviour in handling cases as a result of the trainings. For example, chiefs were now speaking out against mediation and compensation for sexual violence cases, even for those cases that involved family members as perpetrators. Also, there were reports of chiefs working more effectively to preserve evidence by escorting victims to the hospital, and then ensuring that both the victim and the perpetrator were brought before the police so that charges could be filed. Finally, chiefs found that the new laws are an effective tool in preventing cases within their communities. Instead of using compensation, and then allowing perpetrators to go free to perhaps commit a similar crime again, the laws allow chiefs a tool to stop this cycle of violence and ensure that their communities are safer.
KWJA also reported challenges related to the chiefs’ trainings however. These challenges were primarily related to logistics because the trainings were held in more rural parts of Kenya and many of the chiefs were coming from remote locations. Accordingly, ensuring that the trainers’ and participants’ schedules could match and that everyone could get to the same location without adversely impacting their regular work duties was a challenge. Ensuring travel and lodging reimbursement for chiefs traveling from remote locations was also a challenge because for some the expense was quite large and participating in a one day training would require two nights lodging at the venue and two full days of travel.
Source: Interview with KWJA Staff, Nairobi, March 2011.
Ethiopia – Community Collaboration to Prevent Child Marriage
In Ethiopia, many communities are working to address the problem of child marriage. In some regions, half of girls are married before the age of 15. Local communities, supported by non-governmental organizations, have taken a collaborative innovative approach to the problem. Traditional legal and formal legal authorities are partnering with reproductive health advocates and educators to prevent child marriages. Girls clubs have been established in schools to educate girls about the risks of child marriage. Community health representatives also work in the community to educate families about these risks. Girls from the clubs often report the engagements of friends to school officials who then report the upcoming marriage to local authorities or to local marriage approval/ screening committees. These community level committees are composed of religious leaders, government representatives, and women’s rights groups. The committee hears the case and determines whether the girl is of legal age to be married. When there is a question about the girl’s age, she must travel to a hospital for age determination before the committee will approve the marriage. If parents are found to have violated the federal statute setting 18 as the legal age of marriage, the committee can recommend that the families be called to the formal court where they can be fined or even jailed. Marriages can also be annulled through this process, or girls can obtain divorces. Non-governmental organizations then provide scholarships for girls who leave child marriages so that they can attend school.
Learn more about forced and child marriage.
Sources: Pathfinder International. 2006. Creating Partnerships to Prevent Early Marriage in the Amhara Region. Fente. 2009. Ethiopians Fight to Stop Early Marriage.