Leitner Center Supports Legal Aid Week in GhanaOctober 19, 2011
Fordham Law's Leitner Center for International Law and Justice participated in Ghana’s first ever Legal Aid Week celebration in October. Legal Aid Week encourages awareness of the Legal Aid Scheme and highlights its role in promoting justice in Ghana. In raising its public profile, the Scheme aims to secure both financial and community support to better position itself to fulfill its Constitutional mandate of providing free legal services to the poor and indigent. The Leitner Center is a committed supporter of Ghana’s Legal Aid Scheme, and Leitner Center Public Service Fellow and Fordham Law graduate Ayinde Sawyer '11 has continued this support by working with the Scheme in Ghana to provide logistical support during Ghana’s first annual Legal Aid Week.
Legal Aid Week proceedings began on October 2 at the Kofi Annan Centre with more than 120 supporters attending. Mr. Richard Ackom, chairperson of the opening ceremony, delivered introductory remarks. Mr. Ackom reinforced the theme of Legal Aid Week, "Empowering the Vulnerable in Society Through Legal Aid," by informing the audience that proper access to justice (especially for the poor and vulnerable) was a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution of Ghana.
Throughout the week, the Leitner Center requested the support of stakeholder organizations to collaborate with the Legal Aid Scheme, noting that without such collaboration many of the poor and vulnerable citizens of Ghana would be left without relief. One of the more inspiring presentations during the week came from Mr. Solomon Saki, a legal aid beneficiary. His son was accused of stealing a cellular phone. Without the help and dedication of the Legal Aid Scheme, his son would still be in the system. Mr. Saki praised the work done by the Scheme and stated that when he heard about Legal Aid Week, he was compelled to attend and give a testimonial.
The mission of the Leitner Center is to contribute to the promotion of social justice around the world by encouraging knowledge of and respect for international law and international human rights standards in particular. Ghana’s Legal Aid program can help millions of people gain access to a lawyer when in need of one. It is the hope of the Legal Aid Scheme and the Leitner Center that this first annual Legal Aid Week becomes a catalyst to an overhaul of the current legal aid system, which will lead to an increased budget and additional support from those in a position to provide assistance.