By Senator Mobina Jaffer : As African Canadians, we are aware of the discrimination and inequality many women in Africa face when they try to access justice for violations of their rights. In many countries in Africa, women are completely excluded from the justice system. Too often, police forces and courts lack the will, resources, or training to provide justice for women. Unequal access to justice means that millions of African women are denied their basic rights and are unable to participate in their countries as strong and equal citizens. There is an opportunity, however, to transform this situation and place women’s rights at the core of the justice system.
An on-going project in Tanzania is an excellent example of the positive work that is being done to improve women’s access to justice. The Tanzania Women Judges Association, with the support of UN Women, strives to expand women’s access to justice by providing training for judicial officers, policymakers and lawmakers on women’s rights. Charles Magesa is a male magistrate in Arusha who participated in the training last year. The training helped him overcome the challenge of finding witnesses to testify in cases relating to violence against women. Magesa explained, “The training has taught me that survivors of violence and their witnesses were often afraid to come forward, because their names used to be publicly announced before the case appeared in court and they would often be pressured or threatened into dropping the case.” Magesa now insists that the witnesses’ names remain confidential to encourage witnesses to come forward in these cases.+
The efforts in Tanzania to improve women’s access to justice are important and should be supported. We, as African Canadians, can do more to help our countries of origin to achieve access to justice for women. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, violence against women is widespread. The lack of consequences for those responsible for crimes allows the crimes to go unpunished and justice is lost.
As many of you are aware, I have been working on these issues for several years – as I know many of you have been as well. Now I ask that we join hands and put forward an even more concerted effort in achieving justice for our fellow Africans. I look forward to working with you.