April 2, 2023

Cllr. Nigba wins Human Rights Defenders Of the Month Award

Cllr. Margaret M. Nigba has been selected as the month’s Human Right Defender by an international organization called Defend Defenders. The organization that is part of the Human Rights Defenders initiative and network is situated in the East and Horn of Africa, respectively. The decision was made at the body’s just concluded 4th General Assembly in Kampala, Uganda. Human rights advocates aim to advance, safeguard, and realize economic, social, and cultural rights in addition to promoting and defending civil and political rights.

The knowledgeable Liberian human rights lawyer hails from Grand Kru County in the south-Eastern part of Liberia and is the most recent and honored laureate. She has over the years earned the hearts and souls of millions of people in her home country, Liberia for her passion, dedication, and impact-driven efforts and activities, particularly in protecting the rights of women and girls in Liberia. Like many other women today, Margaret’s upbringing thirty-seven years ago was not ideal because she and her sibling had to witness abuse and neglect, and her mother had been abandoned by her father at a young age as narrated.

“My sister and I grew up seeing our father abuse our mother physically and emotionally until he abandoned us altogether. So, my mother had to do odd jobs to feed us, and I ended up dropping out of school, becoming a teenage mother myself, and trying to support her. In the end, the accumulation of this abuse took a toll on my mother until she eventually died. My emotional baggage allows me to connect with other victims of gender-based violence (GBV) and other related injustices on a deep level.”

With such traumatic physical and emotional experiences, Margaret was not discouraged but rather mustered the courage to move forward, seeing her experience as a great challenge. She was noted for her resolve and determination to make sure that as many women as possible have access to better life options than her own mother did. Margaret studied law at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia with the goal of making a difference while pursuing her passion. She then began working for the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission as a government prosecutor.

“I engaged frequently with women who were abandoned by their spouses, those who were abused, and I recognized my mother in them. I realized that without help, they too would certainly suffer her destiny,” the prosecutor for the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission said. I made the decision to assist them as a result. Margaret quit her well-paying career in order to pursue her passion and dream, and she then began providing pro bono services to these ladies in need.  She launched a social  in 2017 under the name “Her Voice Liberia.”

Two years later, after discovering that Liberia’s women in particular did not have adequate access to justice at the local level, she launched the Her Voice Legal Aid mobile clinic. Margaret rolled up her sleeves for the Legal Aid Mobile clinic, traveled to towns and villages, mingled with the populace, listened to women’s justice concerns, and was able to seek justice for as many people as she could. The global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 had a significant impact on the program, as well as other programs and activities around the world. The Her Voice Legal Clinic, however, would respond to distress signals from women and come to their aid, including giving temporary housing to women who were living with abusers and needed relocating.

Additionally, because of mobility restrictions, they would prosecute cases in open courts that were inconvenient for regular people to access. Margaret wasn’t disturbed, even if the clinic’s job took up the majority of her time. Since it was the role her mother would have wanted her to play, she claims that she was actually finding fulfillment in her efforts and those of the clinic. Her Voice Legal Aid Clinic was able to successfully provide legal aid to over 900 women in Liberia as a consequence of its significant contributions both in rural and urban communities over the period. In addition, the team has grown and currently includes six volunteer female lawyers who are providing assistance.

With assistance from the Open Society Initiative of West Africa (OSIWA), the Legal Aid Clinic will formally introduce mobile legal booths at eight magistrate courts in rural Liberia in November of this year. The booths will include a legal aid officer, a psychosocial worker/counselor, and a lawyer among other professionals who will collaborate closely with prosecutors to improve their efficiency in handling GBV cases and other human rights issues in the nation.

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