The Creative Activist

By Saruni Martin- Art in Tanzania internship

Martin Saning’o

Weeks had gone by, my national exams were nigh, since Mr. Martin Saning’o had passed away from COVID-19, I had a dream. In the dream, Mr. Martin said to me, in Swahili, with rough translation to English as, “Dare to dream big, never give up and always have a spirit big enough to achieve your dreams. Never give up my son and remember I love you!”. I woke up emotional that day but I also had a thought. He has done great works that most don’t know of. I wouldn’t want his works to go unnoticed – I would want people to know of the works that he did and the benefits he has brought to the Maasai community in Terrat, Simanjiro. This is his story.

Simanjiro

Martin was born in the early 1960’s in the Simanjiro district of northern Tanzania. This is in the Maasai heatland – the high arid plains south of Arusha. In common with many Maasai of his generation, Martin and his family cannot be sure exactly when he was born. But Martin believed it to be in 1960 or 1961.

Martin was one among the minute number of Maasai children to have received education at the time. He used his education well. He wanted to give back to society that brought him up, so in the early 1990’s he founded IOPA – Institute for Orkonerei Pastoralists Advancement. Although IOPA’s first priority was to deal with land rights, it also eyed health problems and water supply problems that the Maasai at Terrat faced.

Martin became an activist, and made critical moves to ensure that the Maasai aren’t displaced from their traditional lands – The government had been displacing the Maasai at the time from areas they claimed to be ‘National Park areas’. His moves were seen to be ‘too critical’ to some in high places, and as a result the government initially refused to register IOPA.

As impossible as it may seem, Martin sued the government for displacing the Maasai from their traditional lands. At the time, more than 6000 Maasai had already been displaced by the government form National Parks. IOPA, led by Mr. Martin, filed a number of cases against the government which later on resulted in a landmark ruling by the High Court in IOPA’s favour.

Martin recognized that education was the key to enlighten the Maasai on a number of things: land rights, their own health, their livestock, the ongoing changes in the outside world, and a number of other things. He figured that a community radio would effectively serve this purpose. He took measures to establish a community radio, the first ever in Tanzania. He worked his fingers to the bone – a lot of sleepless nights – and finally the ORS FM first broadcasted news in 2002. The radio was in fact the first ever community radio in Tanzania – or in a larger perspective East Africa. It broadcast news in Kimaasai (the Maasai native language) and also played Maasai music.

After the idea of the community radio, Martin also realised that there was a need for electricity – not only for the radio station but also for the receivers of the information they portrayed. He worked on a number of projects, in association with different international organisations, to bring electricity to the Maasai people.

Martin also worked to help women facing different challenges, most especially those in the maasai areas – they were more prone to treacherous practices – such beatings from husbands, mutilation and harassment. IOPA created a safe haven where beaten women would go to and tell their stories. It also tried to prevent female genital mutilation, FGM, child marriage and women oppression. IOPA dedicated some of its resources to educate women and raise the status of women in the Maasai society. IOPA also sought to help women economically. IOPA established dairies in Simanjiro with a long-sighted view of enabling women to sell milk and get money, they used to acquire their needs and the needs of their families. In the maasai culture, the only resource that belongs to women is milk.

Martin had broad and liberal outlook in his work, which touched each and almost every age group and social class by the time. For children, IOPA helped establish more than 50 pre-primary and primary schools across the region.

Martin’s work didn’t go unnoticed – he was elected an Ashoka fellow in 2003 and got the attention of a Dutch philanthropist, Dini de Rijcke, and began to work with her through her foundation, Strichting Het Groene Woudt (SHGW). Through working with Ashoka and SHGW, IOPA achieved many of its objectives. The Dutch foundation provided IOPA with 5 dairy plants and generators to power them across the region, and each dairy could process up to 2000 litres of milk into yoghurt, cheese, ghee and butter per day. These products were sold throughout the country. In cooperation with these organizations, IOPA was also able to work on a number of water supply projects, that bore fruits as the people in the dry Maasai lands got water with much more ease than before.

IOPA centre in Terrat

The women’s refuge centre was expanded to also be guest houses that could accommodate visitors to the area. IOPA also added additional generators to build one of the first mini-grids in the country to supply more than 1000 people in Terrat village with electricity, since the government had considered it too expensive to connect Terrat to the national electricity grid.

Martin was bestowed various awards for his great work such as Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2014 by the Schwab Foundation and World Economic Forum Africa, the Ford Global Community Leadership Award, and Dubai Global Innovator Award.

Martin suggested that IOPA had to try and create viable micro businesses, so that even after funders ended their collaborations, IOPA would still be able to run its activities and thrive. As of today, IOPA’s remaining running projects include ORS FM radio, a few dairy plants, the conference centre, the water business, the guest house, and education and health support project in Terrat.

In 2019, IOPA was changed to Orkonerei Maasai Social Initiatives (OMASI) – an NGO – because of government laws and regulations, and by the end of 2020 Mr. Martin had achieved most of his goals and dreams.

On March 1st, 2021, Martin passed away. I can say that he hasn’t truly died because his works still live on – he lives through his works. He has left a legacy and very big shoes to fill. This story of Martin is supposed to be a motivation to anyone with big dreams, anyone who is fighting against all odds to achieve their dreams. I hope I have done his story some justice.

LEGAL AID

By Mariam Msangi – Art in Tanzania internship

Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people who are unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality. Before the law, the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial.  Aid provided by an organizations established specially to serve the legal needs of the poor.

Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people who are unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law, the right to counsel and the right to a fair trial.

Importance of legal aid

-Legal aid may be taken to mean free legal assistance to the low-income people in any judicial proceedings before the Court, Tribunals, or any authority. It intends to provide free legal assistance to the low-income people who are not able to enforce the rights given to them by law.

-For those that cannot afford a lawyer, access to legal advice and assistance can not only empower a person to resolve their legal problem, but also to prevent that problem from negatively impacting the other aspects of their life.

-An advantage of using Legal Aid, if you do qualify, is that it normally protects you from having to pay the other side’s costs if you lose the case. However with Legal Aid you do have to make a contribution to your own legal costs. Is legal aid important?

-Legal aid is the provision of assistance to people who are unable to afford legal representation and access to the court system. Legal aid is regarded as central in providing access to justice by ensuring equality before the law, the right to counsel, and the right to a fair trial.

Types;

There are two types of legal aid: for civil and for criminal cases. All applications for legal aid for criminal cases are means tested. But some applications for legal aid for civil cases are not means tested, for example care cases and Mental Health Tribunal cases.

Below is a summary of the types of free legal services that may be available in your state.

Public Defenders

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, you may be dreading heading to court, especially if you do not have the resources to afford a lawyer. You may be entitled to obtain legal services without charge. However under the United States Constitution, you have the right to free legal services for your criminal trial if you cannot afford an attorney of your own. Often, these attorneys are appointed by a judge from a public defender’s office when you are formally charged with criminal counts. This attorney will be assigned to your case for the duration of your criminal trial, as well as your first appeal if you lose the initial criminal case. To find out more, you can contact your local public defender’s office.

Legal Aid Clinics

If you think that you need to file a lawsuit to protect your interests but are unable to afford a private lawyer, you may be able to qualify for legal aid, often called legal services. Legal aid organizations and attorneys often receive funds from the government and are normally tasked with taking on cases concerning the poor and the low-income. Because of their limited funding, however, legal aid societies and lawyers can usually only take on a select few cases. The lawsuits that legal aid attorneys normally litigate are ones involving denial of unemployment benefits, social security benefits, consumer credit issues, and eviction and other landlord tenant lawsuits.

Before you begin looking to obtain services from a legal aid organization, make sure you are eligible. Often times, legal aid organizations only take cases from those who make less than a certain amount of money each year. You can look in the phone book or contact a local bar association in order to get in touch with a legal aid society to see if you may qualify for free legal services. Government funding to these organizations is usually limited, and because of this, they may not be able to take your case, or you may be in for a long wait.

Personal Injury Attorneys on Contingency

Many personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency fee basis, which means that you do not pay anything to the attorney up front and the lawyer only gets paid if you get paid. Contingency fee arrangements are great for those who have winning cases but no real means of paying an hourly fee to an attorney.

The way a contingency fee basis works is that you and your attorney will decide on a percentage amount of the reward that the attorney will get upon a successful lawsuit or settlement. This percentage is often in the neighborhood of 30-40%, but can vary depending upon your state and the laws governing these arrangements where you live. Keep in mind that this percentage does not cover the costs incurred by an attorney, such as filing and court fees. If your case does go to trial, however, and you are successful in your lawsuit, judges often award the costs of the lawsuit in addition to the judgment amount for your injury.

Pro Bono Services

Attorneys working in private practice and in firms often set aside a portion of their time to work on pro bono cases. As with community legal aid clinics, pro bono services typically are offered to individuals whose combined household income is less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level. There are some exceptions to these income limits, which you would need to learn about from each pro bono program.

Social Justice Organizations

Often times you may find an attorney willing to provide free legal services if your case involves some issue of social justice. Social justice issues are easy to spot as they will have implications that extend well beyond the scope of your case and include things like sexual harassment in the workplace or freedom of speech. For example, if you are attempting to sue your landlord for racially discriminating against you, you may be able to find an attorney willing to work for you on a pro bono basis as this case may have a broader influence on the community than just your specific problem.

Law School Legal Clinics

You can find free legal services at many law schools’ legal clinics that provide free legal services to low-income clients by law students under the supervision of an attorney (usually a clinical professor). Generally, this type of pro bono work is offered in one or more particular areas, including family law, elder law, landlord-tenant issues, health care law, and financial assistance. Moreover, law students can provide a range of legal services including, but not limited to, research and writing, drafting legal documents, client interviews, negotiation, and court preparation.

How can I get legal aid
A person in need of free legal services can approach the concerned authority or committee through an application which could either be made by sending in written form, or by filling up the forms prepared by the said authorities stating in brief the reason for seeking legal aid or can be made orally.

Where we can approach for any legal help?

Where should I approach in order to seek free legal services/aid? The SupremeCourt Legal Services Committee for cases before the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Each District Legal Services Authority, High Court Legal Services Committee and State Legal Services Authority has a front office where an application can be moved.

Why is free legal aid important?

Free legal aid is provided to ensure that opportunities for justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities. Legal services includes rendering of any service in the conduct of any case or other legal proceedings before any court and giving of advice on any legal matter.