Legal empowerment programme and its impact on urban communities

04Nov 2021
By Guardian Reporter
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Legal empowerment programme and its impact on urban communities

THREE years ago, Legal Services Facility (LSF) launched its urban legal empowerment program aiming to address issues such as environmental rights, women’s economic rights, housing, and labour, which are prevalent in urban settings around the country.

To facilitate implementation of this program, LSF partners with urban-based organizations and provides funding to that effect and in so doing enabling these organizations by extension to contribute to LSF’s key results areas.

 The “Wanawake na Ajira” project which is being implemented by the Women in Law and Development Africa (WiLDAF) in Dar es Salaam addresses labour rights challenges facing women, youth and girls employed in the industrial sector in the region. Under this project several factories have installed preventive mechanisms against all forms of violence and discrimination in the workplace, as further evidenced by requests from 12 manufacturing businesses in Dar es Salaam to develop anti-sexual harassment policies for their workplaces. Another commendable achievement of the project has been a one-year plan that was developed by the Ubungo WCPC to effectively address violence and harassment against women in the workplace.

WiLDAF’s National Coordinator Anna Kulaya says: “Primarily we want to see women benefitting from available opportunities and resources around the country. A project such as this needs further support so that we can realize even bigger outcomes, but also that it should be expanded beyond Dar es Salaam to include other regions where there are manufacturing activities and ultimately improve the work conditions of many more people”.

On another front, LSF collaborates with the Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team (LEAT) to ensure every citizen in Dar es Salaam enjoys their fundamental right to live in a clean and healthy environment through a project that is implemented in the city’s five districts. Under the auspices of this project notable achievements include the enactment of by-laws that enable communities to establish waste collection points in the streets, put in place strict rules against water leakages and introduced fines on persons who violate these by-laws.  This initiative has significantly improved the overall cleanness of the environment around the city and eliminated disease outbreaks.

 To address housing issues among urban poor communities, LSF pooled resources with the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA) which provides legal education to the general public to help them to understand their right and ensure they entered into fair rental contracts with landlords to avoid situations that violated the tenants’ rights.

 Furthermore, a special program that aims to empower women economically has been launched and is being piloted in the Ubungo Municipality. The program will see more than 300 women assisted to acquire their title deeds, and over 2,000 empowered in legal matters pertaining to land issues which are instrumental in addressing ever-growing land-related disputes in many parts of the country.

 With LSF’s support, the Women’s Legal Aid Centre (WLAC) is implementing a project named “Community Legal Empowerment in Labour Laws and Rights” whose beneficiaries are women and youths working in both the formal and informal sectors. Under this project a total of 1,192 people have had access to legal aid through sensitization, training, drama and dissemination of tailor-made awareness messages. Furthermore, workers are enlightened on breaches of employment contracts, infringement of maternity rights, and sexual harassment at the workplace.

In Mwanza Region LSF supports Railway Children Africa which is implementing a program designed to improve and change the lives of vulnerable children by raising awareness of challenges that push and expose children to unsafe environments where they are exploited through child labour and other abuses in the urban settings of Ilemela and Nyamagana districts. Through legal aid and training on the rights of street children and domestic workers, justice support mechanisms have been supported and additionally, the right to parental or guardianship care to street children is provided through family reintegration approaches. A dedicated phone number for domestic workers to report abuses is in place and more people are using it to report injustices and receive assistance.

A pilot project that focuses on solid waste management in Dodoma is being implemented by Reaching Unreached Tanzania (RUT). Through it the city council has been trained to comprehend and apply solid waste laws and assisted in their implementation. The laws ultimately promote the rights of the city’s residents to live in a clean and healthy environment.

On the other hand, in Mbeya LSF works with Teofilo Kisanji University (TEKU) to create awareness and equip urban women with skills sufficient to navigate terms and conditions of loans in 36 wards of the city of Mbeya.  The project has so far imparted these skills to 11,000 individuals and address challenges women faces such as unfavorable contract term when they acquire loan for their economic or social activities

In Zanzibar LSF supports the Zanzibar Paralegal Organization (ZAPAO) to empower small businesses particularly those run by women and youth in the Urban West region to improve their business environment. Through this intervention ZAPAO helps these businesses acquire government-zoned locations where they conduct their businesses without hurdles.

Deo Bwire, LSF’s Senior Program Manager, points to the rationality the organization saw in engaging urban-based NGOs in the broader context of its Access to Justice Program adding, “In totality, LSF’s urban legal empowerment program has to a large extent addressed challenges in the urban setting hence increasing opportunities to continue working with local communities, local governments and other partners to addressing every day urban issues and help women and youth realize their potentials. Legal problems that are commonplace in urban settings are just as crucial as those in rural areas and our partners found in these major cities provide that vital link for legal aid beneficiaries”.

As LSF celebrates its 10th anniversary it sees the rewarding impact that the program has had, and that supporting and expanding both its scope and scale will broadly enhance the legal landscape in urban areas around the country.