Twelve years after Sierra Leone’s long civil war came to an end, its broken institutions and weak development indicators continue to impact on the lives of its people.
And as ever it’s women who bear the brunt. Aside from the usual grim data, one statistic stands out: the number of female prisoners has doubled over the past three years.
IRIN’s latest film, Women Behind Bars, tries to understand why prison rates for women are soaring. It follows two paralegals, Victoria and Marvel (AKA Small Pepper) as they fight for the rights of women trapped in poverty, and a corrupt system that discriminates against them.
In a country of only 400 lawyers, Sierra Leone’s 80 paralegals have a crucial role to play in trying to deliver basic human rights. As we watch Victoria and Marvel at work, negotiating with police and prison authorities, advising and at times cajoling the women they have come to help, it becomes clear how daunting that task is.