Press release

World Bank Awards Grant to Pioneering African Paralegal Nongovernmental Organization

October 23, 2006
+1 212-548-0378

FREETOWN—The groundbreaking nongovernmental organization Timap for Justice received a three year, $879,000 grant today from the World Bank to provide justice services in Sierra Leone, one of the world's poorest countries.

Timap for Justice, cofounded by the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Sierra Leonean National Forum for Human Rights, is a pioneering organization training and deploying paralegals in the country's rural areas. In a nation with five million people and only 100 lawyers, the need for their services is acute.

Timap's paralegals address justice problems that arise between people and the authorities, such as corruption in government services, as well as disputes between individuals, including instances of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The paralegals use mediation, advocacy, and community organizing to resolve such problems. Their efforts are complicated by Sierra Leone's dualist legal structure, which features both a formal legal system of courts and lawyers based on the English model, and a customary system based on traditional approaches to justice. Timap's paralegals apply their knowledge of formal law and their familiarity with local customs to navigate between the two legal systems.

A new publication from the Justice Initiative, Between Law and Society: Paralegals and the Provision of Primary Justice Services in Sierra Leone, focuses on Timap, highlighting cases which include a man cheated by a corrupt local chief and a woman accused of being a witch.

The grant announced today comes from the Japan Social Development Fund, operated by the World Bank, which supports innovative social programs that help alleviate poverty. The grant will enable Timap to continue its work for the next three years, and expand its geographical reach from five chiefdoms to ten.

"This grant will make an enormous difference to Timap, and to the people of Sierra Leone," said Vivek Maru, founding co-director of Timap for Justice. "It will allow us extend our reach and solve more justice problems in places where these services are desperately needed."


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