Christian Legal Education Aid and Research (CLEAR) Kenya represents marginalized individuals in court, teaches legal education in prisons, schools, and communities, and gives legal advice to anyone who needs it. They also pursue public interest cases that highlight larger systematic failures in the justice system. Their larger goal is to make justice the norm across all regions of Kenya.
Last year they won a grant through International Bridges to Justice (IBJ) JusticeMakers Competition for their innovative teaching methods and dreams of a fair world. I was connected to this organization because IBJ wanted documentary journalists to cover the new projects they were helping to fund.
I followed CLEAR’s efforts in their Kisumu office, where they have four full-time employees and dozens of volunteers working for equality and legitimacy in the legal system. Their efforts were particularly important in the wake of the 2008 post-election violence, which rocked the city and brought life to a stand-still because it was too dangerous to go outside for simple things like groceries. The two programs I found most interesting were a tribal language radio show on legal issues, and paralegal training of prisoners and prison guards so they can participate in the appeal process and represent themselves.
I was inspired by how much they were able to accomplish with a $5,000 grant, and I tried also to do the most with my two months in Kisumu by going out and searching for other stories of injustice in Western Kenya. The prisoners who were training to be paralegals were also particularly interesting, because a few of them spent much of their day researching legal issues and organizing themselves into law clubs to empower themselves.
I plan to make a book of my experiences in Western Kenya to raise money and awareness for CLEAR.
A Kenyan Prison Officer sits behind his typewriter amidst piles of hand-written appeals that he must type. Most of the appeals for the prison go through this one typewriter. Trouble started when the typewriter in the back left broke down and the appeal process was paralyzed for this prison.
Homeless children stand around a fire before sunrise. Many children were picked up by the police the day before to help clean up the streets the day before the Kenyan President and Prime Minister visit town. Many of these children end up in remand homes with children standing trial.