Legal Aid Centre of Eldoret (LACE)
Working for Leah and Sharon
Leah J. is an HIV-positive Kenyan widow with three children. When her husband died of AIDS, he left behind a small piece of farmland that was the family's only property and source of income. But Leah's in-laws forced her and her children off the land, and they were left homeless and hungry.
Sharon C. was victimized by sexual assault in rural Kenya. But her efforts to see that charges were filed and the perpetrator was held accountable were blocked by an indifferent bureaucracy, including mandatory fees to file a police report and obtain a post-assault physical exam. Sharon could not afford these fees and feared retribution from her attacker.
The challenges faced by Leah and Sharon are far too common in Kenya. So Kenyan and Indiana attorneys and judges formed the Legal Aid Centre of Eldoret (LACE), which successfully represented Leah and Sharon, along with hundreds of other poor people in western Kenya, most of whom are HIV-positive and all of whom would otherwise have no access to justice.
A U.S.-Kenya Partnership
Professors and students from Moi University School of Law, local Kenyan attorneys, and Indiana students, lawyers, law professors and judges all work on behalf of LACE clients. The LACE team in Eldoret is led by our legal director Milkah Cheptinga, an attorney with experience advocating for women and children, especially those affected by HIV/AIDS.
LACE works in close association with AMPATH. LACE has opened its initial office within the AMPATH Centre in Eldoret and accepts client referrals from the AMPATH medical and social services staff.
Immediate Impact, Larger Goals
Since LACE's founding in September of 2008, we have already represented over 1,000 persons like Leah and Sharon, all of whom are affected by HIV/AIDS. This innovative integration of health care and human rights led to LACE being invited to present overviews of our program at the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna and the 2010 conference of the American Public Health Association.
Thanks to support from Open Society Initiative of East Africa, Rotary International, Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and the Indiana legal community, which launched an annual "Race for LACE" fundraiser, we plan to build on our success by adding rural-based paralegals, enhanced community rights education, and advanced education for human rights-oriented Kenyan law graduates.
For more information, please visit the LACE website here.
**Read an article on LACE by an IU School of Journalism student here.