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100 Women: 'I didn't mean to plead guilty'

Tarih: 19-09-2017 13:57:42 update: 19-09-2017 14:04:42 + -


Image copyright AdvocAid "Miriam" grew up in Sierra Leone and didn't go to school.


100 Women: 'I didn't mean to plead guilty'

Guard hands certificate to an inmateImage copyright AdvocAid

"Miriam" grew up in Sierra Leone and didn't go to school. As an adult, she struggled to read and write. When she was arrested for loitering, she misunderstood the offence and found herself in prison - but it was there that she had her first experience of the classroom. With some help, she has written the story of how she learned to read.

"How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?"

"What? I don't understand."

"Are you guilty? Please answer."

"Yes sir."

What is 100 Women?

BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. In 2017, we're challenging them to tackle four of the biggest problems facing women today - the glass ceiling, female illiteracy, harassment in public spaces and sexism in sport.

With your help, they'll be coming up with real-life solutions and we want you to get involved with your ideas. Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and use #100Women

Image copyright AdvocAid Image caption Inmates in the classroom with teachers

Haja Gbla works as a teacher in the prison service, helping women to access education, through the charities EducAid and AdvocAid. Like Miriam, she missed out on normal schooling as a child, but the charity gave her the opportunity to go back to class and finish her studies.

In the correctional centres, I have met so many women who have extraordinary tales of injustice to tell simply because of their lack of educational opportunity: those who have signed or thumb-printed documents they did not understand, those who have pleaded guilty having no idea what the words meant, those who have been imprisoned for breaking completely unreasonable micro-finance agreements they did not comprehend and so on.

Image copyright AdvocAid Image caption Students in the prison are presented with certificates of achievement as they progress

In my work both inside and outside of correctional centres, I am conscious of being a catalyst for women to find a way to realise their full potential.

Education is a wonderful tool to open windows and opportunities and transform a woman's chances of controlling her own life.

Just as my own access to education through EducAid made it possible for me to live up to my potential to be an agent for change, I want to help as many other young women as I can to join the army of women that are needed if we are to see justice and equality for women in Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the current economic crisis in the aftermath of the recent Ebola epidemic has resulted in a vast reduction in the funding available to human rights organisations.

Because of this, the literacy classes have been put on hold for the first time in 10 years.

The ladies behind bars all want these classes to begin again, as they see them as an opportunity to improve their chances of a brighter future upon release.

Image copyright AdvocAid Image caption Charities provide books for inmates to read while they're in the correctional centre

*Miriam's name has been changed






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