When COVID-19 first hit Kenya we knew we had to adapt the way we did things. Like so many others we chose to review and improve or implement new ways of operating. We left no stone unturned – from hygiene to schooling and community outreach. Yet very quickly a problem arose in an unexpected area and began affecting many of our children. The issue was within the Kenyan judicial system. Specifically we began to experience delays to court hearings resulting from the temporary suspension of all trials from the High Court to the Junior Court. Each case was now required to occur online. As a result of extended trail periods, our children’s trauma has increased and their anxiety is prolonged as they wait longer to face their perpetrator.
With our children always being our priority it was clear that we needed to establish a pathway to support the judicial system through this complex time. The most practical step in supporting our court system was clearly to address the problem at hand. We needed to ensure court cases were not backed up. This would subsequently mean all services for the children remained functional and we could protect them from further harm.
In 2017 we pioneered the introduction of court video links into Kenyan courts for our children. This placed us in a unique position to implement change in this area. We have a proven commitment to ensuring the judicial process is effective, efficient and fair. So we made the bold decision to raise funds in order that this system could be extended to other court cases in the community. Supporting our court systems will ultimately benefit our children.
Below, Uncle Erick shares more on how this initiative unfolded and the generous gift that has made it all possible.
A halt on hearings
When COVID-19 officially entered Kenya in 2020, there was confusion in all government institutions. Among them was the court in Nakuru which in turn affected all those who use the court including police, correctional facilities, schools etc. The judiciary had to stop all physical courts temporarily and later on introduced hearing of cases virtually. This meant court matters that were scheduled for the month of March had to be assigned new dates. The move saw matters postponed for a maximum of six to 10 months.
Rafiki Mwema was affected greatly by this delay. Every time court is mentioned our children experience additional trauma and a longer trial period means extended stress. Cases that had started well ended up being disrupted and delayed. This caused anxiety in our already traumatised children who were keen to finalise their cases. Most of these cases were scheduled for virtual hearing, a system which can already be particularly challenging in areas where network coverage is poor or is affected by the geographical set-up. Our girls com from as far as Nyahururu, Eldama Ravine, Molo, Kabarnet, Naivasha and Engineer in Nyandarua .
An identifiable need
With no summons from the police in regards to court dates, Erick decided to contact Legal Resource Foundation, an organisation that offer pro-bono legal support to our children. It turned out they too were waiting for new court dates. Erick was informed the Nakuru Correction Facility has only three computers. These were being used by four courts spread across Nakuru County. They reported that the government had done all that it could. The judicial system was now depending on the support of well wishers who have also been affected by the changes of court dates and the introduction of the virtual ones.
Erick’s research into the matter confirmed his worries. There is a scramble for the computers among the courts and High Court matters are always given priority over the Junior Courts. He witnessed people gathered in several corners trying their luck with the courts. Most of those waiting were women with small children, victims of government swoop of COVID-19 law breakers. Many could not afford a fine or cash bail so were being held in the correctional facility awaiting their hearing..
It was clear to see that if we were to turn things around so our children weren’t to suffer further delays, each court in Nakuru County needed to be covered. We needed to be supporting our court system. Through consultation it was decided we should source two desktops, three laptops and a printer. This would mean that our cases are heard faster.
Supporting our court system, a step to help our children
Hearing of the additional trauma our children have been experiencing due to prolonged proceedings, Grandma Doyle understood the importance of supporting our court system. Stepping in she generously offered to cover the costs required to turn things around.
The wheels were put in motion quickly and Grandma Doyle’s donation on behalf of Rafiki Mwema was actioned. Funds have meant there is now greater access to the technology required for virtual court hearings and sessions. The donation of the requested items – two desktops, three laptops and a printer – mean this is now a reality. A laptop was also given to the Nakuru East Sub County Children’s Office.
Our team purchased and delivered each item. As always they made a big day out of it with photos, soda and certificates plastered over every item 🤣
Rafiki Mwema is proud to be seeking innovative ways to support our children. Leading them to a swift resolution through legal proceedings is one such example. And while our children are always top priority, if there is an additional benefit where we can support the wider community that is certainly a win-win.
We are eternally grateful for the generosity of our beautiful Grandma Doyle. The impact of her support will be felt for generations. If you would like to support Rafiki Mwema we have many ways you can do this. Visit our Get Involved page for more information.