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Hundreds of Kenyan women ditch the lawyers and act for themselves in matrimonial issues

Unable to meet high legal fees and wary of dodgy lawyers, hundreds of women in Kenya are becoming their own advocates, taking to the courts to fight their estranged husbands for divorce, child custody and maintenance — and winning.

The initiative, run by the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA), equips women with legal information and useful advice on how to represent themselves in court.

Over 700 women have filed petitions in court and acted as their own lawyers over the last eight years — with 86% of them achieving a successful verdict, according to FIDA.

“We assess the client’s ability in terms of how they talk and express themselves. If their ability is not to the standard, then we assign a pro bono lawyer,” said Jeremy Mutika from FIDA’s Access to Justice programme.

“Many clients have also had very bad experiences in their marriages, and so we have to ensure those who represent themselves are able to control their emotions, and speak to the judge with a sober mind. This is essential.”