For the past three days I have been working for the Fadama Legal Assistant Programme(FLAP) at a place commonly known as Sodom and Gomorrah, Ablogbloshie.
FLAP is a centre founded and currently headed by Fredrick Opoku, the aim of the centre is to provide a place where the community of Old Fadama (sometimes referred to as Sodom and Gomorrah) can come and seek legal advice and help. Some such advice include domestic violence, debt collection and succession. Although the centre has no formal recognition it commands a high level of respect amongst the people in the community and the police. On my first day I arrived quite late due to some miscommunication on where we were to meet up. We were met by Frederick and a few other FLAP workers, who walked confidently and cheerfully in their bright orange FLAP shirts which I was soon to wear, it was too easy to spot them. As we walked slowly through the slum to our destination I was truly surprised at how the venue of the internship looked.I was aware that it was a slum however, I discovered that the state of the place was much worse than I anticipated. There were heaps of rubbish all over the place, it was extremely muddy, overcrowded and insects definitely felt at home. The inhabitants of the town starred at us with eager eyes it was very clear that they knew that we were foreign to the place. Having lived in Ghana before I was surprised to realise how terrified I was of the people in the slum(this fear was just an illusion which soon disappeared when I realised that the people who lived there were actually very safe people). Many people did not worry about walking around bare footed despite the infections which could potentially come about as a result of dirty puddles. But how could you blame them, most of them are poor and uneducated. The fact that they existed so low on the social spectrum also made it particularly difficult for them to access their human rights, the reason why we were there to help. At the office Frederick,founder and manager of FLAP introduced at to the few staff at the centre who received as with joy. He further highlighted to us certain case studies we would be looking at.One of these involved the case of a young girl who was assaulted by a man due to her refusal to accept his sexual advances, the other case involved a young man who had been seriously injured by a cargo .I cannot emphasise sufficiently the effects these issues had on the victims.One would think that the gravity of the various matters would cause the police to act with urgency, It was therefore a surprise to me that despite solid evidence the police had not acted. Subsequently Frederick highlighted that our roles as FLAP interns would be to interview clients,ensure that police officials act on their word and in some scenarios contact legal aid to get in touch with some lawyers for victims.Whilst in the office discussing our schedule for the week a nurse bust through the door to call on Fredrick to solve an issue. She stated that a child was very ill, however, her father had refused to contribute towards her medical cost she therefore asked Frederick to come and speak to him and highlight the legal implications of his refusal. After a while Frederick returned stating that the father of the child was still refusing to contribute but the child had been sent to the hospital, we decided to return to the case the next day. Fortunately, we were subsequently informed that the father of the child started contributing to the medical charges after further mediation
The first day ended on a very sober note for me, it made me think of how privileged I was to live in England where I have access to the criminal justice system with ease.