By Ibraim Kabba Turay
In a bid to provide support for the next generation of feminist lawyers, AdvocAid has officially launched “Frances Claudia Wright Scholarship,” which will fund law school fees for women and provide practical experience in legal empowerment.
The launching, which was organised in the form of a fundraising cocktail, was graced by Ministries Departments and Agencies(MDAs), civil society organisations, gender activists, entrepreneurs, managers, among others, at the New Brookfield’s Hotel in Freetown.
Speaking on the memory lane of the institution, one of AdvocAid’s Board Members, Commissioner Simitie Lavaly noted that AdvocAid has been about women, working for women since 2006.
“AdvocAid was developed out of the work of the ‘Pademba Road Prison Monitoring Group’. This group comprised of four women involved in human rights and justice sector reform work in Sierra Leone.They initiated monitoring activities and literacy programs in the women’s section of the country’s main prison,” she stated.
Lavaly further stated that “This led the Monitoring Group in 2006 to found AdvocAid, an organization focused on supporting access to justice, education and reintegration for women and children in detention.”
“Since its founding, AdvocAid has achieved significant successes in relation to providing legal advice and representation, legal education and welfare and re-integration support to detained women and girls and as that, the scholarship is part of the process of ensuring that the next generation of women continues what AdvocAid started,” she said.
Lavaly disclosed that in 2007, they only had one paralegal and that as at now, their paralegal base has been expanded.
She mentioned that AdvocAid started in Freetown and then extended to Makeni, Kenema, at some point in Kono and also working in Bo.
“The scholarship fund exists to know that more women can represent women,” she said.
In her keynote address, Yasmin Jusu Sheriff recalls that Frances Claudia Wright was a prominent Sierra Leonean lawyer during the 20th century, who was very easy going.
She explained that Frances Claudia Wright was born in Freetown to Sierra Leone Creole’s parents, Claude and Eva Wright, adding that to satisfy her father’s aspirations for a child to succeed him as lawyer, Frances Claudia Wright studied at Bedford Girls’ Modern School (now Dame Alice Harpur School), in England and was called to the Bar from Gray’s Inn on 17 November 1941, during the Second World War.
She narrated that “In 1943, she sailed for Sierra Leone on the ship SS California, but when that was sunk off North Africa, she lost all of her possessions and had to be rescued by HMCS Iroquois. Wright made her way to Sierra Leone and joined her father’s practice. She proved a force in the judiciary of Sierra Leone, once confronting Andrew Juxon-Smith with the expectation that she would be arrested. She served as the President of the Bar Association. Thereafter, she travelled back to England and later died on the 2nd April 2010.”
Madam Jusu stressed that there are so many things women face especially when they enter into a tough profession like law.
“Thus, it is our job to support those women who could make very great feminist lawyers, committed to the advancement of women not just with money for fees, but also with opportunities to work with other women and organization,” she added.
A recipient of the scholarship for 2022/2023 academic year, a student of the Sierra Leone Law School, Umu Kulthum Sesay, thanked AdvocAid for the generous gesture and promised that she will honor the confidence reposed in her.
At the event, a 45 minutes panel discussion centered on Gender in Justice-Building a Feminist Justice System was done. The said discussion was moderated by Edward Kargbo with Yasmin Jusu Sheriff, Fatmata Sorie and Juliet Mamawa Kaikai as speakers.