Name: Sabrina Mahtani
Where: Sierra Leone
What she does: Founder of Advocaid – has organised aftercare programmes for ex-prsioners, sustainable rehabilitation programmes inside prisons, and human rights training for prison officers
Impact: Specifically – since AdvocAid’s lawyers have been based at the law courts, the number of women in Freetown’s prisons has halved. The Ministry of Social Welfare have put a policy in place about treatment of children imprisoned with their mothers
Nominated by: Ari Clowney, Inspired Individuals Communication and Development Manager TEARFUND
Sabrina is a passionate advocate for the rights of women in prisons in Sierra Leone.
Born in Zambia and educated in the UK and the US she has worked both at the International Criminal Tribunal forRwandaand the War Crimes Tribunal inSierra Leone. Her passion for justice started when as a child he father was unjustly imprisoned in Zambia on a trumped up charge of treason. This childhood experience brought home the vital need for much more effective legal representation on the continent. The extent of this need was personified when Sabrina travelled to the Sierra Leone and came to witness first hand the plight of women on death row inSierra Leone. Moved by the needs of women in Sierra Leone, Sabrina returned to establish AdvocAid with a group of friends in 2006.
AdvocAid provides access to justice, legal aid, education and reintegration for female detainees, and their children, inSierra Leone. Women are forgotten prisoners lacking a voice, access to justice and the basic necessities of soap and medicines. Women end up in prison due to poverty related offences and circumstances, for instance stealing to feed their families or for owing money to other market traders and can often spend years in prison. Often women are imprisoned for defending themselves against violent partners.
Sabrina has developed aftercare programmes for ex-prsioners, sustainable rehabilitation programmes in the prisons using trained community based women paralegals. Sabrina is also training prison officers to make them aware of human rights issues and how to treat people better. Her training helps implement the new UN rules for the treatment of women prisons.
Policies in Sierra Leone have been changed due to Sabrina’s tireless work. For instance, the Ministry of Social Welfare have put a policy in place about treatment of children imprisoned with their mothers and she has lobbied for separate detention centres for women and two are now in place. Sabrina is an inspirational leader to young Sierra Leonian women. She has created a team of 15 people passionate about justice issues. She is excited to share her passion and vision with young women and see them develop in to powerful advocates.