THE COVID-19 CRISIS led to various disruptions to access to justice including closure of courts, putting trials on hold and delaying justice. This came at a time when police violence and systemic inequities led to increased human rights abuses. Cases of gender-based violence were also on the rise.
Women bear a disproportionate brunt of health crises, environmental disasters and gender-based violence. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 global pandemic followed this pattern-having devastating implications for women’s access to justice.
During this period, FIDA-Kenya also scaled down its operations and closed its offices to members of the public and
directed staff to work from home as from April till August 2020.
However, due to the nature of the critical services offered by the organization, it became imperative to resume operations
with adaptations and innovations to enable us deliver services but also continue protect clients and staff members.
One adaptation was the rolling out of a GBV toll-free call line 0800720501 on 15th April 2020, with the kind support of the Danish Embassy (DANIDA), through which the organization continued providing legal aid assistance and psychosocial support to girls and women from across the country. While it was expected to be used mostly by women and girls reporting GBV cases and other violations of their rights, it was also used by boys and men reporting violations including sexual violence, police brutality and those seeking psychosocial support as a result of the anxiety created by the pandemic and the accompanying challenges including job loss.
Through the toll-free line FIDA-Kenya was also able to offer grief counselling to families that had lost their loved ones to the virus and offer support to patients in isolation as they receive treatment caused emotional distress.
During the height of the pandemic FIDA-Kenya’s strong partnerships with pro-bono advocates, community-based organizations, paralegals, mediators, elders, the police, Court users Committees, the Judiciary, health providers among other partners enabled continued provision of essential access to justice services to girls and women across the country.
The generous support by development partners including UNFPA, USAID through Search for Common ground have made the manning of the toll-free line by volunteer Advocates and Counsellors possible.
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