25th July 2017
Citizens Advisory Bureaux Volunteers Need More Support to be Effective!!
By a press release (11/06/17)
The Executive Director of the Legal Aid Board has called for urgent support to the newly created Citizens Advisory Bureaus in Freetown.
The Legal Aid Board boss Ms. Fatmata Claire Carlton-Hanciles (pictured) made this plea recently in Sierra Leone. The Board has opened fifteen Bureaus since February 2017, all in the capital Freetown. This will continue until they are established in all the 394 Wards in the country.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles warned that the bureaus could struggle to create maximum impact if people do not contribute to their upkeep and sustenance. She encouraged members of the public to copy the example of a staff of the Office of National Security (ONS) who donated money to the Bureau in Ward 393 in Grassfield, Lumley.
“People should take ownership of the bureaus because they belong to them the Board is only the architect. The reception has been very positive, but this is not being translated into support needed to keep the Bureaus up and running. The bureaus need stationery, furniture and money to cover transportation, electricity, water and other basic necessities and allowance for the volunteers,” the LAB boss noted.
The warning comes as most of the bureaus struggle to open their doors on a daily basis due in large part to lack of funding. “I would encourage people to visit the Bureaus in their Wards to have a feel of the work they are doing in terms of promoting peace by mediating minor disputes which in the past were taken to the police and tribal authorities at prohibitive cost,” she said.
Ms. Carlton-Hanciles was quick to point out that the bureaus are managed by volunteers. She noted that each has at least twenty volunteers. What’s more, they do not receive any allowance. With the exception of retirees, the other volunteers can hardly afford to offer full-time service due to other competing priorities relating to livelihood.
She said the Board has amply played its part in working with stakeholders in the various Wards to secure office space for the bureau, identify and train volunteers as stipulated in the bye-Law for the bureaus, provide ledgers and the various forms for referral and invitation.
She said the board will continue to assist the Bureaus into the future. “Following the opening of the bureaus, the board continues to provide technical support and oversight,” she said.
The National Outreach and Community Affairs Officer for the board, Mr. Ibrahim Kamara echoed similar sentiments, noting that while some of the twelve bureaus in Wellington and Calaba Town in the East are doing wells, majority are falling short of the standards set by the board.
“We intend to provide additional training to build the capacity of volunteers as part of ongoing support to the bureaus,” he said.