Own predicaments inspire youth-run CSO to provide free legal aid

Our grantee, the Legal Assistance Organisation (LAO) have a lot to share with regard to their ‘humble beginnings’ that eventually accelerated their pace, and earned them an award as the first runners-up of the 2013 Excellence Awards - offered by the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS).

It is said the decision among its founding members to venture out into the provision of legal assistance to local communities at Mkuyuni and Butimba wards in Mwanza region, only came about with a big motive behind.

Hamza Mussa, who is in charge of finance and administration matters at the organisation, on 3 April told the visiting team of the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) joint monitoring tour of projects that the death of his father and the battle for inheritance at his family contributed to shape their course for provision of free legal aid.

“Back at our college room in 2010 I shared my family predicaments with a fellow classmate, Heri Emmanuel (who is the current executive director of LAO). It was all about the struggle for inheritance - following the death of my father. We then sought ways to take our legal studies to the next level and help the community,” said Mussa.

He went on: “We then developed our ideas and registered our organisation in 2011 to provide free legal assistance to the majority poor at Makuyuni and Butimba wards.”

“The organisation basically emerged after learning from a long experience of hard times that faced my mother in pursuit of our inheritance rights,” said Mussa.

On his part, Heri says LAO effectively started to provide legal assistance in 2013 without any donor funding but limited to creativity in raising own funds through legal consultancy and family donations.

The main activity done by LAO was to conduct mobile legal clinics on the inheritance law, whereby more than 200 people were directly reached and helped to draft their inheritance statements and institute their cases.

“We campaigned for the community to write their wills before deaths do them apart. In fact, writing a will is not predicting one’ death. So we did all this without any formal grant,” said Heri.

Thus, LAO has been targeting widows and children on enhancing their inheritance rights, as well as translation and popularizing the inheritance law in simplified version.

“How did you manage to do all this without a grant,” asked Zabdiel Kimambo from the UK’s Department of International Development. Responding to the question, Heri pointed out the issues of institutional sustainability strategy as LAO’s game plan.

“We used to take consultancies from other bigger institutions and other CSOs in interpreting and expounding on various laws, including the child rights and that’s how we were able to keep our days moving,” explained LAO chair Heri Emmanuel.

He concludes: “We are grateful that this year we have got a grant from the FCS to go ahead with what and where we ended through our own means.”


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