Women who experience gender-based violence are faced with numerous obstacles when they attempt to access the legal system (including the cost of legal assistance and a lack of awareness of what their rights are and how to enforce them). The Saartjie Baartman Centre accordingly found it necessary in 2003 to implement a cost-free legal service as part of its comprehensive range of multi-disciplinary services.
The Legal Advice and Training Project was instituted as a partnership between the Centre and the Community Law Centre (a human rights research and advocacy institute based at the University of the Western Cape). In January 2004, a full-time legal advisor was appointed to provide legal advice and assistance to Shelter and Centre partners' clients, and at the beginning of 2006 a paralegal worker was appointed to assist her. The Project also draws on the Community Law Centre's Gender Project to conduct advocacy, training and research activities.
The Project aims to improve access to justice for victims of gender-based violence and other vulnerable women through:
- provision of free legal advice and assistance with protection orders, maintenance and court preparation;
- conducting information and training workshops for clients of the Saartjie Baartman Centre, staff members of the Centre's partners and other relevant service providers on such issues as the Domestic Violence and Maintenance Acts; and
- engaging in legal advocacy and research initiatives in priority areas, such as housing.