What We Do
Since 1989, WLAC has been at the forefront in promotion and protection of women’s rights in Tanzania. We accomplish our successes through the following programs:
The provision of accessible, high quality legal aid services to vulnerable women and children is at the core of WLAC’s mandate. Women and children are disproportionately affected by poverty, and WLAC’s provision of legal services addresses this directly by enabling them to have access to land and economic opportunities that they are routinely denied due to discriminatory cultural practices and values.
The most common types of cases brought to WLAC are matrimonial, land and inheritance; however, WLAC’s capable legal staff and volunteers are equipped to handle a wide range of legal issues. Many of these have included refugee, child maintenance, child custody, labour, rape, insurance, and defamation, to name a few. WLAC provides reconciliation, client coaching, case follow-up, in-court representation, document drafting services, and legal and human rights education. In addition to our head office in Kinondoni and our field offices in Kasulu, Muleba, and Kibondo, these legal services are delivered through a variety of channels – including mobile legal aid clinics, the Children in Conflict with the Law program, and our toll-free hotline.
ADVOCACY & NETWORKING
WLAC’s believes that by networking and collaborating with likeminded organizations, it can strengthen its capacity to improve women and children’s access to justice and strengthen gender equality in Tanzania. For this reason, WLAC’s strategic aim to lobby and advocate for desirable changes in policies and practices pertaining to women and children’s rights informs a great deal of the organization’s activities.
WLAC’s 2015 Advocacy & Networking Highlights
- WLAC spearheaded a strategic litigation case on Tanzania’s unjust customary and inheritance laws. This case attracted global attention and secured WLAC an award granted by the CEDAW committee for our advocacy work.
- WLAC directed the CEDAW taskforce working to hold the Tanzanian government accountable to implementing the CEDAW recommendations and ridding our country of discriminatory laws and policies.
- With the support of Norwegian Church Aid, WLAC conducted a thorough study assessing the effectiveness of legal instruments and social service institutions in addressing cases of gender-based violence in the Bunda district of the Mara region. The study found that women are victim to a broad range of abuse and discrimination, that social institutions are not gender-responsive and often perpetuate GBV, and that laws and policies do not function to protect the rights of women.
WLAC networks with the following national organizations:
- Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC)
- Tanganyika Law Society (TLS)
- Tanzania Gender and Networking Program (TGNP)
- Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA)
- Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA)
WLAC networks with the following coalitions:
- Tanzania Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (TANGO)
- Mama-Ardhi Alliance
- National working group to support access to justice for children and youth in East Africa (SAJCEA)
- Tanzania Land Alliance (TALA)
- Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF)
- Legal Aid Secretariat (LAS)
WLAC networks with the following international organizations:
- Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
- International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW)
- Washington and Lee Law School
- The Georgetown Law Centre
PARALEGAL, TRAINING & OUTREACH
Due to a growing demand for legal services and awareness across Tanzania, WLAC offers a variety of programs to provide both legal professionals and members of the community with capacity training and learning opportunities. WLAC believes paralegals play a fundamental role in grassroots advocacy and are every bit as important as lawyers – offering citizens living in remote areas invaluable access to legal services. Through WLAC’s training, paralegals are taught to perform substantive legal work – they help prepare cases for trial, perform research, assist with depositions and obtain affidavits. Additionally, WLAC trains paralegals and delivers refresher trainings on file management, report writing, project monitoring and evaluation, and recordkeeping, provides training on land matters, women’s rights, and human trafficking for community leaders, and informs legal officers and volunteers on the standards for the provision of legal aid and legal aid referrals.
To support the important contributions made by paralegals, the Tanzania Paralegal Network (TAPANET) was established at a symposium coordinated by WLAC. TAPANET is a coalition of 20 paralegal units and aims to increase the capacity of paralegals, advocates for the recognition of paralegals by the State and provides a forum for paralegals to share information and experiences.
Over the years, WLAC has mentored and established over 50 paralegal units across the country – three of which are based in Tanzania’s refugee camps where women and girls are more exposed to the dangers of rape, assault, exploitation, trafficking, forced marriage, and a lack of access to water, food, and legal support.
WLAC also provides civic education to different segments of the population – organizing numerous workshops and seminars in order to improve the political participation of traditionally marginalized community members, to determine barriers to participation, and to educate participants about their rights during election time. WLAC uses information gathered at these workshops to educate local government leaders about how they can improve women’s civic engagement and participation keeping in mind the barriers they face. The logic behind these public engagement efforts is that if all Tanzanians of voting age are able to participate in elections and civic matters in a meaningful way, their interests can permeate candidates’ campaign priorities, policy reform initiatives, and can ultimately provide them with the agency needed to improve their livelihoods.
PUBLICATION & DOCUMENTATION
Since many people are unaware of their rights, as well as the steps and services available to them once their rights have been violated, WLAC conducts research and publishes informational materials to help raise the public’s awareness of women and children’s rights.
WLAC is constantly seeking to increase and improve the creation, publication, acquisition and dissemination of educational resources. These materials are invaluable tools to spread accurate, accessible information to entire communities and can serve as long-term reference materials. WLAC disseminates tens of thousands of publications to paralegals, institutions, organizations, researchers, stakeholders and clients annually at trainings, client meetings, and public events. WLAC’s publications, in addition to publications donated to and purchased by WLAC, can be borrowed and/or purchased at its Resource and Documentation Centre located at its headquarters in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam.
WLAC’s Resource and Documentation Centre is always being replenished with documents published by WLAC as well as those received from various stakeholders. The Centre contains documents pertaining to International Law, Land and Human Rights, Criminal Law and Procedure in Tanzania, Land Laws & Regulations, Defense in Criminal Law, agribusiness, child marriage, domestic violence, and sexual rights of girls and women in Tanzania, to name just a few. The public is welcome to access these documents when the head office is open.
As part of its research program, WLAC also categorizes and summarizes newspaper articles about human rights abuses on a daily basis. The responsible staff identifies relevant provisions from the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, Regional and International human rights treaties/conventions that Tanzania is a party that relate to the offence(s) in the article. WLAC conducts this newspaper survey to better understand the trends in violence against women and children in Tanzania. With this information, WLAC is able to tailor its programming and research to address and counteract these disturbing trends directly.