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Programs of Action

WLSA has six programs, the core one being action research.The others are: - Information Generation; Legal Advice and Services; Lobbying and Advocacy; Networking; Training and Education.

 

a) Research

WLSA conducts activist research in the seven countries.By activist research we mean research which is intended to inform and influence action being taken to

improve women’s legal position and which incorporates action into the research by educating women and girls about their legal rights, providing legal advice, questioning and challenging the law as well as instigating campaigns for changes in the law in the course of research.

 

The research program is carried out in phases during which all the seven countries choose a research topic.The researchers in the seven countries plan research collectively, and the results are compared at the regional level.

 

The following research topics have been studied by WLSA:

1990 -1991, Maintenance Law; 1992-1993, Inheritance Law; 1994-1996 Family and the Legal Status of Women in the Family; The Administration of the justice; Delivery Problems and Constraints 1997 – 2001, HIV/AIDS, Gender and the Law: Challenges for Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights is the research topic for 2004 – 2006.

Multidisciplinary teams of 6 – 8 persons in each country do WLSA research collectively; some are employed full-time by WLSA while others are employed elsewhere in jobs related to WLSA work and do the research part-time.This structure is designed to ensure that WLSA research findings are immediately incorporated into the work of the researchers, and that the researchers’ experiences in different fields of women and development and the law are incorporated into the research that WLSA does.

 

WLSA research investigates both customary law and general law, and the interaction between the two.WLSA takes the perspective that the official

customary law of Southern African states is a rigid, stewed and sometimes distorted version of the actual customary law at the time when it developed, which often has little to do with lives of the people in whose name it has been applied.We believe that the historical roots of customary law must be uncovered and a fresh analysis of women’s rights must be made.We also attempt to rethink legal concepts to ascertain their true nature in customary law and women’s position in that system.

 

We find it necessary to study today’s customary law as it is applied in semi-autonomous social fields not directly regulated by the state, such as the family.

 

WLSA’s recent studies have gone beyond the substantive laws and examined the justice delivery systems that deliver justice.This entails the review of the justice delivery systems with gender lenses.WLSA has taken action to strengthen gender sensitive practices within the justice delivery system through increased information and knowledge of women’s rights, justice delivery, poverty and the interlink ages between them.

 

b) Information Dissemination and Documentation

The programme undertakes the marketing and distribution of WLSA’s research reports, repackaging them in various languages and disseminating the research reports to different target audiences such as academics, students, NGOs, policy makers and the wider public.

c) Legal Advice and Services

The programme is applied partly as a research method to collect data and as on the spot advice to respondents as part of action research and also to women and children who are usually poor and cannot afford lawyers.

 

d) Legal education and training

The Legal Education and Training programme is intended to develop competences of individuals and service providers and enhance institutional capacities to contribute more effectively to the fight against gender violence and injustice through legislation and legal instruments. The programme thus involves teaching women and girls on their rights through formal and informal courses. Beside, WLSA generates public interest in, and knowledge about the issues of women and law through legal education and information dissemination. In addition, WLSA trains paralegals in the communities so that they can assist in promoting and protecting the rights of community members. This programme has also proved to be a way of sharing a multiplier effect of people who know about their rights and laws that govern them.

 

e) Lobbying and Advocacy for Policy, Legal Reform and Change

The research results and some high impact cases are used to influence the legal and policy environment, in respect of women, girls and the law.Being activists as well as socio-legal researchers we use the information generated to encourage all governments in the SADC region to make legal changes to benefit women.

 

f) Networking is achieved at the national, regional and international levels through a quarterly newsletter, workshops, conferences and seminars.

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