OSTACK MLIGO is a human rights lawyer specialising in community legal aid in the town of Musoma, in the Mara region of Tanzania. He is also the Mobiliser of Mara Cluster.
My passion for human rights began at a young age. When my father took a second wife, he began to treat my mother badly. He beat her and took her land, property and clothes for his new wife. There was no support for my mother, and so I began to wonder how she could claim her rights. At primary school I vowed to study hard in order to eventually be able to fight for my mother and other women like her.
No other organisation in our region does this kind of work. This means we’re very busy! There are others in the capital Dar es Salaam, but that’s a long way from here. Thankfully, we communicate with one another to share challenges and text books etc. This is really useful.
If I could, I’d introduce new laws in Tanzania for widows, FGM victims and child marriage. No law currently deals with widows. There is one law for FGM, but it only concerns children, and this practice is happening to women as well. And it is still legal for children as young as fourteen to get married. I want to change all these things.
Our country is now using community ‘mobile courts’ – and they work very well. The court system was taking too long in many instances, which encourages people to break the law or take justice into their own hands. Moving the court into the community makes it easier to accommodate witnesses and administer justice in a timely fashion. Anyone in the community can come and watch – they even advertise it – and this helps people learn about human rights too.
The biggest obstacle to justice in Mara region is people’s belief in cultural practices. Many of these practices are totally contrary to the law. If Mara changed its mindset then people would enjoy their life more. In Mara we introduced a system to help people know how to defend their cases. One day per week, people can come to court and I get to educate them on court procedures.
I’m driven by love, happiness, peace and service. Each and every thing I do I try to do with these principles. I don’t feel happy unless other people are happy, and there are still many people in the community that need support and legal assistance.
Learn how Mara Cluster supports Ostack's work here.