The JPC was established during the Arusha Archdiocesan Synod in 2000; the reason being that a number of Christian Communities asked the Church for support in dealing with continued human rights violations, property issues and other legal disputes. JPC started to provide free seminars and lectures on human rights, social justice and civic responsibilities.
Since then a lot has happened:
Successful in establishing three pillars of project initiatives that began 2015 and has now continued into Phase II (January 2018 – December 2020). These are:
I Training Paralegals
The training of community-based paralegals (men and women) encompasses providing information and sensitization on laws and policies on major subjects such as:
– land law and administration (buy and sell, mortgage etc.)
– marriage and inheritance (rights of married women, widows, orphans etc.)
– protection and observation of fundamental human rights in communities
Training on these issues is essential in Tanzania, being a country with still about 70% of its people working in the agricultural sector. Thus, disputes over land or inheritance issues occur quite often.
The paralegals are ‘opinion leaders’ selected by their communities via the local government authorities. They are respected and trusted members of their communities and know their ‘folks’ well.
So far 60 paralegals have been trained and are providing legal advice and guidance to their communities (20 each in Ngorongoro, Simanjiro and Monduli districts). In addition to their training, the men and women receive reference materials including the Tanzania constitution, Land laws etc. JPC also provides refresher courses and training seminars regularly on conflict resolution, mediation and peace-building in the target communities where often, access to land, water and food for livestock is not easily accessible.
II Training Ward Land Councils (WLC)
The tasks of the WLC can be described in short as follows:
Eight men and women of the Ward Development Council decide within 88 days over a land dispute (or any other dispute) that has been brought before them. They operate at Ward level to serve the villages within each ward. At least three members of those selected by their community to belong to the WLC must be female. They all know the land, the culture and the people, and are respected and trusted to apply common sense as well as basic legal principles in their decisions during disputes. No lawyers, government officials or politicians are eligible to be members of the WLC.
Following the requirement of the Tanzanian land law of 1999 (modified in 2002) land disputes must as a first step, go to the Village Land Council where reconciliation and mediation efforts take place. Then, as step number 2, the WLC serves to provide mediation and also adjudicates in such disputes, and is, in most cases, the final step.
If still no agreement can be reached, bringing the matter to the district land court and then the high court becomes too expensive for all involved. The opponents will have to deal with not only costly but also long-term court cases as result.
III Influencer Groups Training
The focus here is being put on training persons who are in a position to influence their communities, known as ‘Influencer Groups’. They are being sensitized and trained on pressing social issues, and how to find solutions that provide justice for community members. So far, there are seven groups consisting of:
4. Secondary school teachers
5. Police Officers
7. AAIDRO projects staff
These men and women are influencers who discuss and exchange their experiences on issues like
– Social teaching of the Catholic Church
– Adequate Workers Compensation
– The role of the police in protecting human rights
– The rights of arrested persons (it could be you…)
– Journalists ethics on the reduction of cyber crime
IV Future Plans – Participatory Learning Appraisal (PLA)
Result Oriented Project Planning (ROPP)
In accordance with the 5-year-strategic plan of the Arusha Archdiocese, JPC is working towards adopting this important initiative being promoted especially by MISEREOR in furthering the development of grass-root communities. In the words of JPC staff member Florence, “we are eager to participate in this initiative because it means a great potential for sustainability of the development projects”. This approach actually ensures that the community members working together with facilitators, identify their felt needs or problems and then develop workable strategies to deal with such problems in a sustainable manner.
Justice and Peace Commission
(*)MISEREOR is the German Catholic Bishops’ Organisation for Development Cooperation. For over 50 years MISEREOR has been committed to fighting poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America. MISEREOR’s support is available to any human being in need – regardless of their religion, ethnicity or gender. www.misereor.org