Tag Archives: Sierra Leone

A story on every corner

My first full-time gig as a reporter was a wonderful summer in a small city in eastern Canada. Fredericton is the capital of New Brunswick. It’s home to the provincial legislative assembly and two universities. The problem for news-gatherers is that those three institutions are effectively in hibernation for the summer months. Between May and September, there isn’t much in the way of sensational news in Fredericton. I remember a day where the cameraman and I drove around looking for news. After a few hours of searching, we did a story about a small rise in the number of visitors to a provincial park.

The JHR team and bike drivers on the way to Yeliboya Island.

Developed countries like Canada can be referred to as “developed”, because not much happens. Citizens are safe, healthy, secure and, for the most part, have their human rights respected. Here in Sierra Leone that is not the case. Before I came here, a former JHR trainer told me that “there is a story on every corner.” I think of that phrase almost every day.

Kambia town is just a few kilometres from the Guinean border

Kambia town is just a few kilometres from the Guinean border

For the last reporting trip of my time in Sierra Leone, we decided to head north to Kambia District to see what sort of stories we could find. I mentored two journalists from Africa Young Voices Radio, with help from JHR Local Trainer Kevin Lamdo and Kambia journalist Gibril Gottor (recently-crowned Male Media Professional of the Year). Our plan was to do two stories.

We started with a story on unsafe abortion. Abortion is illegal in almost all cases in Sierra Leone. The current legislation dates back to 1861. A recent report showed that, in 2011, 1,622 women went to hospital as a result of the effects of illegal abortions. It estimates that almost 2% of abortions resulted in the mother’s death. We spoke to a community doctor, nurses, a pastor, and after some searching we finally a woman who said she had had an abortion, performed illegally in a local hospital. Story #1.

Gibril Gottor. Sierra Leone's Male Media Professional of the Year. The border police don't like him much.

Gibril Gottor. Sierra Leone’s Male Media Professional of the Year. The border police don’t like him much.

Hanging toilets on Yeliboya Island drop waste straight into the river

Hanging toilets on Yeliboya Island drop waste straight into the river.

On the way to Yeliboya, we had stopped at the village of Kychom to hire our boat. While waiting, we noticed hundreds of empty water packets sitting in the sun. These ubiquitous 500ml bags of water are the cheapest way to get purified drinking water. The packets litter the streets and clog-up drains across the country, contributing to sewers flooding the streets in rainy season. AYV reporter Princetta Williams asked about the packets. A woman told her she was drying them to send them north to Guinea for recycling. Recycling programmes are almost unknown in Sierra Leone. Story #3.

Water packets drying in the sun at Kychom, Kambia District

Water packets drying in the sun at Kychom, Kambia District

When we got back to Kambia town we noticed new sets of clean water taps around the town. They were all installed with the help of the Japanese government in February. But they had all been turned off for the past month. It turned out that very few local home-owners were paying the monthly fee of Le15,000 ($3.50). The local water company engineer said that all he needed was $50 of fuel per day, to pump the water and restore supply. He also said the Ministry of Water was supposed to inject $17,500 into the project in February. The money came two months late, and was only $9,300 – enough to pay-off some of the fuel debts. In the past month, locals have been going to old water sources that are no longer chlorinated. Story #4.

Africa Young Voices Journalist Diana Coker checks the closed taps in Kambia

Africa Young Voices Journalist Diana Coker checks the closed taps in Kambia

On our second evening in Kambia, we decided to head north to the Guinean border. After a colourful exchange with border police (Gibril said they don’t like him very much), we were allowed to walk into Guinea. The border is protected by four rope barriers. But just off to the side is a modern border complex, with barriers, offices and an inspection zone. It was closed. We wandered across. A sign highlighted the grand opening of the Joint Customs Border Post on June 2nd – just days away, I thought. I read it again, June 2nd… 2012. The project was funded by the National Revenue Agency and has sat empty for a year. Story #5.

Nothing seems to surprise Sierra Leonean journalists. Almost everything still surprises me here. When I leave Sierra Leone this month, I will miss it desperately. I fear that life will be too boring back in the developed world. The thing is, so many Sierra Leoneans long for the day when life here is as quite, as healthy and as uneventful as places like Fredericton.

The one-year-old Joint Customs Border Post has not yet been used

The one-year-old Joint Customs Border Post has not yet been used

 

A good walk spoiled

Freetown Golf Club (FTG). Saturday, May 18th, 2:03 p.m. – I was finishing some interviews for a feature article about Sierra Leone’s only golf club, when I saw something remarkable for a golf course; people running.

Golfers play on one of Freetwon Golf Club's "browns" - a surface made from sand and oi.l

Golfers play on one of Freetwon Golf Club’s “browns” – a surface made from sand and oil.

I had played the course a week before and enjoyed speaking with the friendly caddies and professionals. One young professional is about to head off the Senegal Open; his first competition outside of Sierra Leone, his first time abroad, his first opportunity to play a course other than FTG, and his first opportunity to putt on greens (FTG has “browns” rather than greens. They are flat surfaces made from sand and oil). A caddy also told me about how his father was shot in the back of the head during the war. He said it made him thankful for every day he could walk around a golf course, and be paid for it.

Golfers, caddies and police flee the course

Golfers, caddies and police flee the course

But my second visit to the club was proving to be less heart-warming, or inspirational. Players and caddies were running from the course, towards the clubhouse. A few hundred metres behind them, a group of young men followed with sticks and fire bombs. Caddies later told me that everyone ran after hearing gunshots, and they said the men had threatened to burn down the clubhouse.

Men throw rocks and fire bombs toward the clubhouse

Men throw rocks and fire bombs towards the clubhouse

A stand-off followed for a few minutes, with the the men and caddies at either side of a ditch. Some caddies told me they were glad that a friend was there to take pictures and make audio recordings. Armed with golf clubs, the caddies organised themselves and charged back, shouting “attack!” As I followed them down the fairway towards the other end of the course, all I could think of was the movie Braveheart. I thought it best not to be the William Wallace.

Caddies charge back  against the men who invaded the golf course

Caddies charge back against the men who invaded the golf course

One caddy told me he could see a man with a gun, but my eyesight wasn’t sharp enough. He told me where I could safely stand to take photos. Moments later there were two sharp pops. We all fled back towards the clubhouse. The caddies ran in zigzag lines, low to the ground. They encouraged me to do as they did.

Back beside the clubhouse another caddy came up to me and said “A-K.” He had served in the army and said that the AK-47 has a distinct sound. He said he knew who was firing it too. Allegedly a member of the OSD – the paramilitary unit of the police force – who lives in the New Life City community, beside the course.

Riot police arrive at Freetown Golf Club

Riot police at Freetown Golf Club

Around 50 police officers soon arrived and headed down to New Life City. We heard a series of gunshots from the community. When it calmed down, I went to New Life City, and saw that police made at least four arrests, including one man dressed in an army uniform. But by some accounts, the OSD officer had escaped.

One of the New Life City houses, after Saturday's violence.

One of the New Life City houses, after Saturday’s violence.

Some newer houses were being torn down by men who appeared to be caddies. All in full view of the police. One of the arrested men was screaming and in tears. Residents showed me their ransacked houses and said police were to blame. Groups of young men took items from half-destroyed homes and brought them towards the golf course.

This man in army clothes was one of at least four people arrested.

This man in army clothes was one of at least four people arrested.

The club manager told me the situation arose because New Life City is built on golf club land. The houses had been ordered destroyed by a judge in March. Some were soon rebuilt. A surveyor had visited the site on Friday and had his equipment stolen. A subsequent visit by some police officers on Saturday seemed to have sparked the violence.

A man in New Life City cries before he is taken away in handcuffs.

A man in New Life City cries before he is taken away in handcuffs.

With the help of a colleague at Radio Democracy, I produced and co-wrote a radio report that he voiced in Krio. It aired that evening and again on Monday morning. On Monday night a caddy called me and complained about what the report had said about the alleged actions of some caddies. He said he thought we were friends.

A man with a golf club begins tearing down a house in New Life City.

A man with a golf club begins tearing down a house in New Life City.

One of the biggest problems for journalism in Sierra Leone is media ownership. Many media houses are funded by one of the two main political parties. Friends are not always criticized. I now understood how it felt to have to do so. I didn’t enjoy it. But here’s to more of that in Sierra Leone’s future.

Note: Despite Sierra Leone’s bloody past, gun violence like this is relatively rare in Freetown.

A deafening silence

Bonthe is like nowhere else I’ve ever been. It has no cars, no real roads, and just a few motorbikes. It is like stepping back in time. Crumbling colonial buildings line the town’s shore, looking across to the mainland. Behind them, are a mixture of mud houses, simple modern bungalows and metal shacks. For the most part, the only noises to break the silence are those of kids’ laughter, calls to prayer from the mosque and the ‘put-put’ of the odd boat, weighed-down with goods like rice, cement and petrol. It could be 1913 or 2013.

Bonthe is home to around 10,000 people.

Bonthe is home to around 10,000 people.

Bonthe is the main town of Sierra Leone’s biggest island Sherbro Island. It juts-out from the coast of Sierra Leone, a five-hour drive south of Freetown. It’s home to the island’s hospital, council offices, police station and prison. That small prison was one of the first stops on our JHR reporting trip to Bonthe.

There is no electricity on Bonthe, unless you have a generator.

There is no electricity on Bonthe, unless you have a generator.

The biggest prison in the country is Freetown Central Prison (a.k.a. Pademba Road Prison). It currently holds three or four-times the number of inmates for which it was designed. Many JHR-trained journalists have reported on these conditions over the past few years. This month the government said it plans to replace the facility. Because of Pademba Road’s reputation, I was prepared for even worse when visiting a small prison on an under-developed island in the Atlantic.

When we arrived outside Bonthe Prison, the staff knew nothing of our visit. It took a few phone calls back to Freetown to confirm that a white man did indeed submit a visitor request the week before. We were in.

The main entrance to Bonthe Prison.

The main entrance to Bonthe Prison.

The cramped reception office had two prison-bar gates on either side – the only barrier between prisoners and freedom. A blackboard inside the office categorized the prisoners. Long-Term: 7, Short-Term: 8, Remand: 2, Trial: 0. Total: 17.

The courtyard in Bonthe Prison.

The courtyard in Bonthe Prison.

The dusty courtyard inside was a little smaller than a tennis court. A toilet block beside the offices, and cells on the three other sides. Two or three male prisoners sat about in the shade. They seemed almost uninterested by our visit.

This prisoner is facing a charge of Wounding with Intent.

This prisoner is facing a charge of Wounding with Intent.

We spoke to the Discipline Officer. He told us there were 23 inmates. He was quickly corrected by the Reception Officer who said there were indeed 17 inmates:  Long-Term: 8, Short-Term: 8, Remand: 0, Trial: 1. Ultimately there was no practical way to find out which numbers were real.

A prison cell in Bonthe Prison.

A cell in Bonthe Prison.

Of the seven cells, four were in use. Four or five men to a cell. The ones we saw measured around four-by-three metres, and had two or three single beds each. The officers told us that men are allowed out of their cells from 6:30 a.m. until around 5 p.m. They are all required to preform “hard labour” in local paddy fields. Not an easy life, but nothing compared to conditions in Pademba Road. And I’ll be honest, while I was inside, I sized-up how easy it appeared be to escape over the low roof.

Bonthe Prison toilet facilities

Bonthe Prison toilet facilities

We made the five second walk back outside. Our story wasn’t what we had planned it to be (a better one later developed). As we walked away, JHR’s Bonthe-based trainer Samba Koroma pointed out a yellow building beside the prison. He told me that it was the original site of the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL). (The permanent SCSL compound is now in Freetown.) The SCSL was set up to prosecute for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the latter half of the 1991-2002 Civil War.

The former Special Court building in Bonthe.

The former Special Court building in Bonthe.

The courtroom section of the SCSL in Bonthe is open on two sides. Unusually for government buildings in Sierra Leone, the walls seem barely scuffed, but the SCSL logo behind the bench is beginning to peel away from the wall. The wooden dock stands to the right of the bench. In March, 2003, rebel leaders like Foday Sankoh were indicted on this stand and kept in the prison next door. That month, the court also issued an indictment for then Liberian President Charles Taylor.

Inside the SCSL courtroom in Bonthe.

Inside the SCSL courtroom in Bonthe.

Sankoh died from a stroke later that year. Taylor is currently being held in The Hague, appealing his 50-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The silence inside the SCSL courtroom seemed to ring inside my ears. I didn’t feel like hanging around, so I took a picture and quickly walked outside.

I squinted in the sunlight and saw my colleagues chatting to each other in the distance. It was so quiet I could hear what they were talking about. That very different, timeless silence again. In Bonthe, it can be any year you want it to be, but it’s a safe bet that no one’s wishing for 2003.

JHR Present Sierra Leone Human Rights Reporting Awards

December 10 was International Human Rights Day, and jhr celebrated by presenting awards for the best human rights stories produced in Sierra Leone. The stories were produced by journalists during an eight-week reporting workshop focused around the 2012 general elections. These stories contributed to a peaceful and transparent election, and heightened the awareness of human rights during this crucial period.

It was a difficult decision for the panel of judges from jhr, UNIPSIL and the Independent Media Commission. In the end, there could only be four – two from print and two from electronic media.

International Human Rights Day with (from left to right) jhr Sierra Leone Country Director Yeama Thompson, award-winners Sallieu Sesay, Lansana Mansaray, Mariama Bah, and Hassan Bangura, and UNIPSIL Secretary General, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen.

Read the stories here:

Hassan Bangura of Salone Times Newspaper – A Call for Equal Representation of People with Disabilities in Government

Sallieu Sesay of the Torchlight Newspaper – Sallieu Sesay – Ahead of the November 17th Polls, Blind Feel Neglected 

Listen to the Stories here:

Lansana Mansaray of Skyy FM – Lansana Mansaray – Violence and Security for Women During the Election

Mariama Bah of Cotton Tree News – Mariama Bah – The Rights of Blind Voters

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JHR Leading Workshop Series on Human Rights Reporting in Sierra Leone for 2012 Elections

In less than two months, Sierra Leoneans will head to the polls for the third time since the end of a civil war. The country has been peaceful for just over a decade, and though the past two elections have been relatively free of civil unrest or violence, some worrying political events of the past year are causing concern whether 2012 will be a peaceful one.

The media plays a significant role disseminating and communicating information to the public throughout the election process. It can help to facilitate peaceful and transparent elections, but it can also be a tool for inciting violence and discrimination, jeopardising human rights.

The media are also able to use elections as an opportunity to hold politicians accountable for the promises made during the campaigning period. After all, the results of these votes will affect the entire country for the next five years.

On September 12, 2012, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to assist in the preparation and conduct of the elections. They call the elections a “key benchmark” for peace consolidation in the West African country, extending  the mandate of the UNIPSIL, as the United Nations presence in the country is known, until the end of March 2013, in part, to assist the Government in the run-up to a “potentially transformational event.”

In this meeting, the Security Council emphasised the the important and positive role that the media can play through accurate and balanced reporting, and called on practitioners to remain committed to providing professional, independent, and factual coverage and to promoting public education and dialogue during the electoral period.

In the lead-up to the November 17, 2012 polls, Journalists for Human Rights is receiving support from the UNIPSIL – the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone- and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to host an eight week workshop series for Sierra Leonean journalists.

Beginning on October 11, journalists from media houses across Freetown will study and report on a variety of human rights concerns that emerge during the election period. Topics covered will include election timelines, human rights issues, election legislation, story-gathering techniques, and safety considerations. Participants will produce three human rights election stories each, for publication or broadcast at media houses. The workshop series will conclude with an awards ceremony, coinciding with International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2012.

Though it is natural for a certain amount of tension to exist in the lead-up to such a momentous event, this application of democracy has great potential to encourage  politicians to commit to improving human rights in their constituencies.

To learn more about jhr’s work in Sierra Leone during the 2012 Presidential Elections, visit http://www.jhr.ca/en/sled.php.

A Debate on Reporting Skills

How do journalists go about reporting fairly and accurately- especially during crucial times like elections?

In just under three months people in Sierra Leone will hold elections.

The media will play big role during this time period.

That was why JHR and the Academia of Sierra Leone joined forces and held a public debate on “Conflict Sensitive Approaches to Media Reporting” recently in the country’s capital, Freetown.

I attended the program along with my JHR colleagues curious to hear what would transpire throughout the day.

The head of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sierra Leone, Memunatu Pratt was Chairperson. And the lead Speaker was Dr. Julius Spencer who has served as a Minister of Information during the Tejan Kabbah administration and now owns Premier Media-one of the leading media houses in Sierra Leone.

Dr. Spencer points out that some journalists tend to sensationalize reporting. Even the way someone uses words in a story can sway a reader he says. He also spoke of how sensationalized headlines can have an effect on how someone views a story. He says that can cause conflict between people and even result to violence.

Another issue he touched on was how some reporters tend to cover only press conferences where they get their transport paid and a lunch. As a trainer I have seen this firsthand. And it ‘s something I try to discourage journalists here from doing. Or at least if covering a presser get other voices as well to balance out the story and put a human face to it. But as one person from the audience pointed out during the debate, many journalists do not get paid on time and some not at all. And they have to stay until the end of the presser to get their money and by then they are close to deadline and have to get back to file. Plus, when you have to put food on the table- what are you supposed to do? And that’s a solid point too and another thing I have witnessed. Many journalists here also pay for their own transport and cell phone calls for interviews.

One comment that came from several people throughout the day was the lack of actual journalists who attended. Perhaps they had too much on their plates already that day with looming deadlines. So I decided to seek out a journalist who did make it, Mohamed Wurie to see what he thought.

He agreed with much of what was said during the debate, “Most journalists are not paid by media houses,” he says. “Most just do programs when they get transport paid.”

But he adds that he is hopeful and positive some attitudes will change. He says the debate was worth having because it was a lively and thought provoking discussion. And even if only a few local reports are done it’s a step forward.

I think that is an important fact too. And I think that it’s always good to keep a conversation going and discuss how to move forward and improve on a craft.

No steps are too small.

JHR trains Law Enforcement and Justice Officials in Northern Sierra Leone

                                                                

(Separate group discussions by the Sierra Leone police, Prisons officers and Local Courts Representatives).

During a three day workshop organized for Law Enforcement & Justice Officials (LEJOs) by Access to Justice, a local NGO working in the Northern districts of Sierra Leone, I was contacted as JHR/BBC Media Action trainer to facilitate a session on the Child Rights Act and the Three Gender Acts.

The session was intended to train 90 Law Enforcement & Justice Officials in the three districts with emphasis on the gaps as well as the roles and responsibilities of the LEJOs – specifically in dealing with access to justice issues and the implementation of the Three Gender Acts of 2007 and 2009 and the Child Rights Act of 2007.

The training attracted LEJOs from Bambali, Kambia and Port Loko districts including police, local and magistrates court personnel and prisons officers. The objective of the training was to increase the ability of women and children to access justice through the provision and strengthening of legal services by discussing the roles and responsibilities of the LEJOs.

It was a very interactive event and the LEGOs were impressed by the link between human rights, the media and other stake holders.

 

Sierra-Leone-cultural-dance-troupe

Sierra Leone’s National Dance Troupe Fights to Return to Glory Days

I went along with my colleague at Cotton Tree News, Kevin Lamdo, to produce his program entitled “My Visit,” where he highlights the everyday life of different groups of people in Sierra Leone. The show has featured everyone from Paramount Chiefs to scrap metal collectors.

This week, the program went to the Aberdeen Cultural Village, the official centre for arts in Sierra Leone. Despite being located inside the city, it lives up to the title of “Village.” Generations of families live here, growing small crops and raising livestock. Chickens squawk running in between bathing children while pots of rice simmer on open fires.

This is the home of Sierra Leone’s National Dance Troupe, who tell me they are happy to be making a living doing what they love, even though their salaries barely allow them to make ends meet.

I visited the village in the morning and for hours they practiced singing, dancing, acrobatics and playing drums – traditional Sierra Leonean music from around the country. But, they tell me, they often can’t afford to maintain their costumes and repair their instruments.

For a time, the troupe performed everywhere from Canadato China. In 1963, the National Danced Troupe was founded by John Joseph Akar, a Sierra Leonean entertainer and repeat guest on the Merv Griffin Show. Under Akar’s leadership, the troupe was invited to the United States to perform at the New York World Fair, at the Negro Arts festival in Dakar, Senegal and went on a four-month tour of Europe.

Today, little seems to be invested in promoting the culture of a country that is best known around the world in popular culture primarily for blood diamonds and civil war.

The Troupe still entertains at foreign diplomatic events and, performs for state functions – including last year’s 50th Anniversary celebrations of the country’s independence. But this kind prestige didn’t last. Several corrupt governments and an 11-year civil war left little room in the government budget for the Ministry of Tourism and Culture,

Lansana Kelfala has been a musician with the dance troupe since 1963, and for a while, he says he felt the pride of traveling the world representing his newly-independent country.

“We used to travel, perform and get paid all the time. Now we can go two or three years without going anywhere,” said Kelfala. “We want the government to give us more help and we want the people to support us so we don’t starve.”

Sierra Leone is Still Waiting for a Freedom of Information Law

Though the government of Sierra Leone has been making very public displays of initiatives that aim to promote transparency, since even before the current government came into power in 2007, there have been discussions about if and how to go about creating a Freedom of Information (FOI) Law.

Generally speaking, the purpose of FOI legislation is to legally require governments to release documents to journalists and other concerned members of the public. At the moment, Liberia is the only West African country with an FOI law, while South Africa, Zimbabwe and Uganda are the only others on the continent.

Sierra Leone currently has a bill in Parliament for the creation of an FOI Law. After it was first drafted, it was twice discussed in cabinet, was then moved to parliament, where it was discussed by the legislative committee on Communication and Information. It is yet to be passed.

The Sierra Leone FOI Bill was first proposed in 2005 by the Society for Democratic Initiatives in cooperation with the London-based human rights organization, Article 19. In 2008, Sierra Leone’s Information and Communication Minister, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo signed a commitment which agreed to pass the Bill into law.

Now, more than three years later at the Commonwealth Forum on Media and Development in Sierra Leone, Kargbo said that he hopes the bill will pass in the next six months.

“It has been delayed, but when parliament resumes the bill will be passed,” said Kargbo.

The government has been promoting its initiatives which they say aim to improve transparency of their operations. One example is the recently completed Government of Sierra Leone Online Mining Repository System, which publishes information on financial transactions between the government and mining companies. Though some see it as a step in the right direction in terms of increasing transparency in one of Sierra Leone’s biggest industries, it is not a replacement for real Freedom of Information legislation.

“As much as the system is promised to address issues of corruption, I don’t think it will holistically address the problem when there is the tendency for the officials of the ministry to only upload information that is in their own interest and not crucial information that the public will want to know about,” said Mohammed Konneh, Secretary General of the Association of Journalists on Mining and Extractives. “Without the [Freedom of Information] law, the system will not work well more so the people that are responsible to run the system will in some cases will be afraid to put certain information that the government considers confidential.”

The draft for the bill argues that FOI laws are not only as crucial to participatory democracy, accountability and good governance, but also as a fundamental human right, protected under international and constitutional law.

To view the 2005 draft of the bill, visit http://www.article19.org/data/files/pdfs/analysis/sierra-leone.foi.05.pdf

Maintaining Community in Women’s Prison

I visited Freetown’s prison for women with Martha Kargbo, jhr’s first BBC World Service Trust Fellow in Sierra Leone. She is producing a feature on how women behind bars maintain contact with their families and communities. What we found is that they often have very little contact with the outside world. Phone calls are difficult and visits with family – including children – are extremely limited. Aside from the problems making contact, there is also a stigma against women who are convicted of crimes and can be stigmatised by their communities even after they are released.

To cope with this isolation from society, we saw that these women formed their own communities, much like a large extended family. Some are in for a few months if they are convicted of marijuana possession, some for years, and one or two on life sentences. They work together sowing clothes and making beaded purses.

It is a right for women with newborns to be able to look after their babies, even if they are in prison. So when there is a baby in the prison, we were told that it is often not only cared for by the biological mother, but by all of them.

The women’s prison in Freetown is not a large facility. It is housed in the former UN Special Courts for war crimes in Sierra Leone. It is not large – there were only 24 women incarcerated at the time of our visit.

When women are released from prison, they face unique challenges reintegrating into society.  They often do not have as many job opportunities as men, and the stigma against female convicts can remain in their communities. There are few government programs available to provide assistance, and correctional services say the look to international organizations for support. Some women who have been released meet every week at a local NGO called Advocaid, and have formed something of a support network. There they discuss legal issues, as well as those affecting their careers and personal lives.

Much like in the prison itself, the support group provided acted not only as a network for navigating legal issues after these women were released, but as a community for those who had lost much of theirs during incarceration.