“I spent this summer in Gondama, a rural town in southern Sierra Leone. Although the summer was not without its challenges, it was a fascinating look into the challenges of women’s rights in Sierra Leone, as well as the interaction between customary law and formal law throughout much of the country. My work mostly involved engaging in mediations and investigations of family law, domestic violence, and contract disputes. We also conducted legal awareness sessions in nearby rural communities on the Domestic Violence Act, Devolution of Estates Act, and other key women’s rights and human rights laws. Finally, we worked to assist individuals obtain redress due to injustices in the local courts, which apply customary law, and abuses by the local police. I also had the opportunity to create a module to train paralegals to conduct court monitoring.
Ultimately, I enjoyed working at the grassroots level to gain a deep understanding into the types of conflicts and disputes that arise in Sierra Leone, as well as the way legal institutions could be improved to ensure better access to justice, particularly in family law cases.”
Akhila is one of 23 HLS students working abroad this summer in 18 countries under the auspices of the Chayes International Public Service Fellowship. Please visit our Chayes Fellowship page to learn more!