Our Case Studies: A Background to Access to Justice

Gender-based violence and women’s property rights

Two of the biggest barriers faced by Ugandan women are gender-based violence and unequal access to land. Although a Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2010, there has been no budget allocation to support its implementation – there is a lack of political will and community support. Further, only 20% of land is owned by women, and because land is a commonly-used collateral, this means that women also cannot access financial services, which further inhibits their decision-making power.

The African Union Protocol on Women’s Rights (the Maputo Protocol) addresses women’s rights issues specific to the African Continent including the elimination of harmful traditional practices like female genital mutilation, early marriage, widow inheritance and property grabbing. Oxfam and the Uganda Women’s Network are training and supporting women’s groups and other community members to create pressure on the government to implement Ugandan legislation in line with the Maputo Protocol so that women are protected from violence and have access to justice.

Access to justice

A female prisoner in Al Mansaura prison, Yemen. There are over 1,000 female prisoners in Yemen. Most of them are there for accusations of adultery or theft. Some are as young as 14. Oxfam lawyers regularly attend the prison and provide legal aid, making sure that women know their rights and are treated fairly when their case is heard.

Right to food, including land rights and food security laws

Abigail Romulo is a famer in the Aurora province, Philippines. She is fighting for her family’s land. In 2010, she discovered that a tenant had sold her land without her consent to the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (APECO). The lands and livelihoods of an estimated 3,000 poor farmers and fisher folk are at risk from this government backed development. The community says the development is in direct violation of several existing laws designed to protect the land and water use rights of small scale farmers, fisher folk and indigenous communities.

Abigail’s community is just one of those you could help by joining Lawyers Against Poverty

Legal support for governments and lawyers in developing communities

In 2013, the first global Arms Trade Treaty was adopted at the UN General Assembly following over ten years of campaigning by the Control Arms Coalition, in which Oxfam played a key role.

Differing access to legal support for country governments and NGOs in international negotiations can create obstacles to participation. There was a need to understand the impact of draft text, build arguments for strong provisions based on legal precedents, and make text proposals which achieved policy goals.

To address this need, Oxfam set up ATT Legal, an international network of pro bono lawyers, including experts in human rights and humanitarian law and international trade, to provide free legal support to governments and NGOs and it was instrumental in helping to campaign for and shape key parts of the treaty, including the requirement on States to consider the risk of gender-based violence in arms transfer decisions, and to understand and shape the process for adopting the Treaty.

Mahmadaliev Saivali, Vaksh, Tajikistan

Mahmadaliev Saivali is the head of a Community Based Organisation (CBO) in a village called Rudaki in the Vaksh region of Tajikistan. A grant from Oxfam helped the CBO rebuild a local school that had been destroyed in Tajikistan’s civil war. The school re-opened in 2013 and now provides education to over 1,000 students.

Oxfam has also worked with Mahmadaliev and the CBO to provide agricultural training and seeds to local farmers. Mahmadaliev has used this training to grow produce in his own garden, including a large crop of grapes and corn.

Along with over 1 million Tajik migrant workers, Mahmadaliev’s daughter is currently living in Russia where she is training to be a nurse. Here they are pictured together during a visit by Mahmadaliev’s daughter to Tajikistan with her five month old baby.

Najbiddinova Bibiniso, Vaksh, Tajikistan

Najbiddinova Bibiniso is the leader of a women’s producer group called “Bakht” which is supported by Oxfam’s GEM Project in Tajikistan. The Bakht producer group is made up of 18 female farmers who each have separate plots of land but collectively buy machinery and seeds which they use to grow produce including wheat, almonds, tomatoes and cucumbers. Oxfam helps Bakht to sell their produce by establishing links with purchasers and guaranteeing the sale price of their produce.

In addition to her role as the leader of Bakht, Najbiddinova is an assistant nurse at her local hospital and is head of her local community. Najbiddinova has attended a number of workshops run by Oxfam on property rights and access to justice for women and she tries to ensure that this information is disseminated to all the women in her community.

Despite the work that she does to help others, Najbiddinova has faced tragedy and legal issues of her own. Najbiddinova’s husband, who was a migrant worker, was killed seven years ago in Russia. As their marriage was unregistered, Najbiddinova has been unable to access key documentation, such as her husband’s death certificate, and has been locked in a bitter legal battle with her brother-in-law regarding inheritance of her husband’s land. This has left Najbiddinova and her children facing imminent homelessness.

Unfortunately unregistered marriages are commonplace in Tajikistan. Following divorce or the death of their husbands, women are often left without official legal status which can mean that they are denied property rights, alimony and even custody of their children.

Avliyoeva Zanjira, Vaksh, Tajikistan

Avliyoeva Zanjira runs a mobile legal clinic providing legal advice to people living in rural villages in the Vaksh region of Tajikistan.

Avliyoeva, who prior to working for the mobile clinic studied at the Technological University of Tajikistan in Dushanbe and practised as a lawyer for eight years, is currently the only lawyer working in the mobile clinic. Avliyoeva visits different villages and usually sees three or four clients per day, the majority of whom are women.

Most of the cases which are brought to the mobile clinic involve land or family disputes. If Avliyoeva is ever faced with a legal issue about which she is unsure, she calls one of her ex-colleagues from private practice for advice. Avliyoeva represents her clients in Court cases and mediations and seeks to use the law to obtain justice.

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