Simple ideas really can be powerful. This is elegantly demonstrated if one observes the impact of Deme So’s innovation to deliver access to justice to Malians, Tien Sira. The innovation is conceptually simple, yet provides access to justice in rural areas and upholds human rights by its functional service and protection extended to vulnerable groups of women, children, victims and witnesses.
Since 2011, the crisis in Mali has highlighted the inadequacies of its judicial system, and the desperate plight of citizens denied access to justice. HiiL’s survey of the perception of justice by individuals in 2014 revealed that more than 80% of legal disputes in rural areas are solved outside of the formal system. The literacy rate is poor. The legal consciousness in society and access to the very basic legal information is poor.
Tien Sira provides people with information that is accessible, transparent and affordable. It offers people guidance through the beginning to end of the legal process and works for the most disadvantaged members of society whilst promoting the justice needs of rural communities.
Citizens can get their information in one of two ways, through a male or female paralegal -volunteers are chosen by the community they serve who offer assistance in the form most helpful to the user – or via a text message. Tien Sira is supported by an IT platform through which citizens can ask justice questions and the responses are stored in a database and openly shared. This is completely transparent justice.
To date, the associated Judicial Clinique in Bamako has held 12300 judicial consultations, 4900 cases have been handled in courts and tribunals, and of those more than 8500 cases resolved satisfactorily. Disputes have a clear access to justice path. Basic legal services are sought and delivered to; 300 marriage certificates and 100 women have been provided with identification cards. Citizens are becoming accustomed to seeking and following up legal issues, and consequently, their trust in the states’ function as justice provider is growing with that trend.
Awareness campaigns are still a fundamental function of Tien Sira’s band of paralegals, encouraging citizens to believe in and demand justice. These results show this is happening. In total, Tien Sira will touch around 3million citizens in Mali, particularly the populations of rural areas. The commitment to upholding human rights and ensuring a quality of service accepted by all judicial stakeholders renders this example a successful one, and one that shows great potential to be imitated in different countries.