Justice now within the reach of the poor and vulnerable in Ghana

Women beneficiaries of the Legal Aid Scheme in Duayaw Nkwanta with Ishmael Yeboah Ofosu, Dispute Resolution Officer (Photo: Bossman Owusu/UNDP in Ghana)

“I am a happy wife. My husband has quit drinking and our children are now in school, says Faustina Agbesi, a 37-year-old resident of Duayaw Nkwanta.

In Ghana, like many African countries, it is difficult for the poor and vulnerable to access justice, due partly to high cost of legal services. It even becomes more challenging when it comes to legal representation for cases such as child care, criminal justice and domestic abuse including unending disagreements between partners.

“Whenever my husband got drunk, he would pull a knife and threaten to kill me. There was no food at home and the children were mostly out of school. Finally, we separated”, says Faustina.

Highlights

  • Legal Aid Scheme ensures that rule of law and access to justice extends to the poor and vulnerable
  • More than 10,000 persons have benefited from the scheme since UNDP’s support in 2014.
  • UNDP’s support to the Legal Aid Scheme includes staff training, office furnishing, the implementation of a five-year strategic plan as well as the development of a legal aid guide which has helped improve the efficiency and quality of services provided to clients.

Established by an Act of Parliament, the Legal Aid Scheme is Ghana's effort at ensuring that constitutional democracy, rule of law and access to justice extends to the poor and vulnerable, who would otherwise be excluded from the formal justice delivery system.UNDP is supporting the scheme to provide free legal services to the needy in all 10 regions and 16 districts across Ghana, including Duayaw Nkwanta in the Brong Ahafo Region.

When cases are reported to legal aid offices, the parties involved are first invited for hearing. By means of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, cases are resolved. Where cases are beyond the resolution of a legal aid office, free legal representation is secured for the clients to pursue the case in a law court.

Faustina is one of the more than 10,000 persons who have benefitted from the scheme since UNDP’s support in 2013.  “Thanks to the intervention of the Legal Aid office in my area, my husband and I are now together again with our four children. We can share laughter as a family”, she says.

UNDP’s support to the Legal Aid Scheme also includes staff training, office furnishing, the implementation of a five-year strategic plan as well as the development of a legal aid guide which has helped improve the efficiency and quality of services provided to clients.

In addition, UNDP has supported the scheme to develop a website, printed more than 70,000 brochures, and organised legal aid clinics in 10 districts to increase access and knowledge of legal aid to deprived communities.

“I feel so elated to see my clients resolve their differences”, says Ismael Yeboah Ofosu, Dispute Resolution Officer at Duayaw Nkwanta.