In 2013, after more than a decade as an attorney in the United States, I decided to broaden my legal advocacy efforts to West Africa. To begin the journey, I set out to work with the paralegal nonprofit Timap for Justice in Sierra Leone. Prior to starting, I knew this would be the experience of a lifetime and felt compelled to bring something of value to share with Timap. Based upon my knowledge of Sierra Leone’s domestic violence rate, I tapped into my experience as a former lead prosecutor in a specialized Domestic Violence Unit to identify what I could provide. I concluded that photographic evidence had been a major contributor to the success of my cases in the U.S. and identified that it was not readily available to the paralegals I would be working with in rural Sierra Leone on domestic violence matters.
As photographic evidence is already used in Sierra Leone, where it can be easily produced, there was never any question as to whether or not the photographs would be useful. Such evidence has the ability to speak volumes for the frequently voiceless victims in both their formal justice system and the traditional resolution avenues. The only question was how to make it an accessible tool for those legal practitioners who are unable to access it.
After a little research, I found a modern version of the good old Polaroid instant cameras – the Z2300. The small battery operated camera has the capability to instantly generate photos, eliminating the need for an external printer, ink cartridges and regular access to electricity. Further, the product is digital so the images need not be printed until it is found that they need be, and can be re-printed should multiples be of use. I brought one with me to a rural office for a test run and confirmed it to be a most productive tool for rapidly and regularly generating images for the paralegals. It is from this experience that Change Through Focus has evolved.
Lydia Brooke Mayer