Naivasha Women’s Prison is a modest facility set near a hill. The breeze billows across the landscape as the women sit and chat in the sun.
This prison has some of the youngest women in the Justice Defenders community.
Affectionately referred to as the ‘youngsters’ by the women they guard. Agnes Tumanka, Mary Awori Nyaudi, Mercy Njeri Nganga, are all below the age of 30. They work as prison wardens and currently serve as some of the youngest paralegals. They handle a variety of cases including child neglect and illicit brewing.
Meet these defenders striving for justice in Naivasha Women’s Prison.
Paralegal prison officer
Agnes has always had a heart for serving others. After graduating as a teacher, shenow works in the prison community. She shares what inspired her to become a justice defender: “Not everyone in prison is guilty of the crime... most do not know their rights, many lack proper court etiquette and knowledge of court proceedings. Here at Justice Defenders offices, we help them access justice.”
Naivasha Women’s Prison has women in confinement due to child neglect. Agnes confirmed many women are burdened with life's pressures. They often take it out on their children; an offence they are remorseful for. She goes on to explain that the green patch where some women sit to get some sun, also serves as a playground for children. Accommodations in the law allow women with children below the age of four to live with them while in prison.
The sounds of children laughing as women clap and sing children’s rhymes are swept up in the wind. The children are none the wiser about where they are, they remain oblivious to the state of affairs. But the work of paralegals is paramount to securing the freedom of their mothers and offers them an opportunity for a life beyond the prison gates.
Mary Awori Nyaudi
Paralegal prison officer
After being posted to Naivasha Women’s Prison, Mary underwent a series of interviews to serve as a paralegal. Later, she attended a 3-week training course that equiped her with legal knowledge. She decided to go beyond her call of duty as a prison warden and become a paralegal to serve society.
“I have found the passion in me…interacting with those in prison, there are many who have been in difficult circumstances that led them into a life of crime. But in life, there is always a second chance," Mary explains. "Justice Defenders is doing a good job. Based on the efforts of the paralegals, many of those in remand have gone home on bond or have had their fines paid. These efforts decongested the Naivasha Women’s prison.”
Mary is modest, but her work as part of the group of paralegals enables women to access justice, be resentenced and have confidence in court.
Mercy Njeri Nganga
Paralegal prison warden
Mercy landed her prison warden role by coincidence. Seeing through her father’s dream to work in the police service, she has come to find that her work as a prison warden is a blessing in disguise. After her family lacked the tuition to enrol into university, the work at the prison offered her a window of opportunity.
Only 22 years old, bright-eyed and full of energy, Mercy speaks passionately of her work. She recounts she always wanted to be a lawyer. Now, working with clients she has found meaning in her work.
Speaking about how she relates with women who are decades older, Mercy reveals her age is her greatest advantage. Far removed from the typical harsh and authoritarian relationship between the prison warden and people in prison, Marcy describes her interactions as courteous and honourable.
With the opening of Justice Defenders' legal offices across three more women's prisons, Mercy is optimistic. Paralegals just like Mercy, Mary and Agnes across the recently opened legal offices in Murang'a Women's Prison, Nyeri Women's Prison and Nakuru Women's Prison will be able to ensure many more women access justice.
Justice Defenders has legal offices across 18 prisons in Kenya. Working in solidarity with prison officers and people in prison, our community of defenders provide legal services to defenceless communities.