Viamo partnered with Legal Aid Forum (LAF) Rwanda, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, to provide legal information and advice via mobile to vulnerable populations. Content on legal rights and how to access legal services was developed and added to our toll-free mobile 3-2-1 Service in Rwanda (locally known as 8-4-5). Callers can dial 845 and listen to free information on their legal rights and are also given the option to access a legal aid hotline for a personal consultation, staffed by call center operators from the Legal Aid Forum.

One of the callers to the Service was 23-year-old Sarah*. When she was just 15, she was sexually assaulted by a neighbor, who later got a life sentence in prison. Several years later, the father of the offender physically assaulted her, stabbing her several times. She reported this to the court, and he too received a life sentence in prison. Later, within the same year, the mother and the brother-in-law of the offender attacked her again, stabbing her several times as well. They too received life sentences.

Subsequently, Sarah’s family wanted to claim for victim compensation, however, they were unable to do so, as they had spent all their money on filing the previous cases. Then Sarah received a promotional SMS from the 8-4-5 Service encouraging her to “call 845 to receive legal aid assistance”. After dialing the shortcode, she received free legal aid information, and requested to be called back by a Legal Aid Forum call center operator. A few days later, she received a call from a Legal Aid Forum operator and was able to explain her case and everything that she had been through. Through the Legal Aid Forum, she was provided with a lawyer to pursue her victim compensation claim – free of charge.

Since the content was launched on our 8-4-5 Service in Rwanda in September 2018, over 440,000 calls have been placed to access the legal aid information and over 120,000 people have requested a call back from a lawyer. It was not anticipated that the hotline would be so needed, so the Legal Aid Forum has increased their capacity from three call center staff to six, in order to be able to respond to everyone. So far, over 17,000 call-backs have been made by the Legal Aid Forum hotline call center, with lawyers providing more information, referring callers to different justice handlers, and offering free legal representation.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

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