SWEDISH head of development cooperation Karin Sverken says there is still a lot more that needs to be done in enhancing equality and access to legal rights.
During the signing ceremony of the funding agreement by the Embassy of Sweden for core – support to the National Legal Aid Clinic for Women strategic plan (2019 -2023) yesterday, Sverken said gender inequalities continue to impact women’s access to justice.
She said legal structural obstacles, discriminatory gender norms and the gender pay-gap all create difficult barriers for women to access legal aid.
Sverken said the agreement was for core support to the clinic to a value of 50 million SEK (approximately K64 million) for the period 2019 – 2023 towards implementation of the Clinic’s new strategic plan.
She said the programme was designed to empower women and children by facilitating their fair and equal access to legal rights.
Sverken said this would be achieved by providing legal representation, counselling, legal and human rights education.
She said the embassy and the clinic had been partners for many years.
“This was for the period 2013 – 2018 and many commendable results were achieved. The clinic provided a full range of services to clients including legal advice, mediation and psychosocial counselling. The clinic’s track record in legal representation has been particularly impressive, winning around 8six per cent of its cases,” she said.
Sverken said the clinic also trained more than 130 paralegals which provide crucial frontline services to women and children in need.
Law Association of Zambia president Eddie Mwitwa who was represented by Matildah Chileshe said the occasion was important because it was coming when the global community was facing an economic recession, which had not spared Zambia.
Mwitwa said in the last decade, the country witnessed withdrawal of donor support, which had impacted negatively on the operations of civil society organisations that rely on donor support.
He said for LAZ, this resulted in the closure of the clinic in 2010.
Mwitwa said the Swedish embassy facilitated the re –opening of the clinic in 2011 by not just providing financial support but also facilitating an organisational assessment of the clinic which saw the development of new strategies aimed at strengthening systems which included governance, financial and management.
“For instance, under the previous strategic plan 2013 – 2017 the clinic recorded a total of 6,523 new cases of women and children against a target of 1,440 cases,” he said.
He said LAZ would also continue to benefit from the vast pool of knowledge available amongst lawyers when dealing with technical cases.
Rosemary Bwalya, a client at the clinic, said the facility needed to decentralise operations to rural areas.
Bwalya, who was divorced and initially not given anything, said she would speak and encourage women to stand up for their rights./