Zambia's juvenile justice system is under-developed and under-resourced, and children suffer as a result.
Undikumbukire Project Zambia is working to fill this gap.
How We began
UP's work began in 2014, when a group of community members in Lusaka began to bring blankets, toiletries and other items to Lusaka’s Kamwala Remand Prison to help meet the physical needs of the juveniles in custody there. Expecting to simply leave the donations, we instead encountered boys who were desperate to interact, asking not to be forgotten. And so Undikumbukire Project—meaning, “remember me” in a local language—began.
How We Grew
As we continued to spend time in Kamwala Remand Prison, it became clear that visits alone would not address the root problems behind the juveniles’ incarceration: first and foremost, they needed someone to defend their rights in court and advocate for the speedy resolution of their cases.
The vast majority of juveniles in conflict with the law in Zambia cannot afford a lawyer, and legal aid resources are very limited. Thus, juveniles are often forced to defend themselves alone in court, lacking even a basic understanding of their rights and legal procedure. This can result in overly severe charges, one-sided trials, and weak convictions. On top of this, conditions in Zambian prisons are extremely challenging—and for vulnerable juveniles, even more so.
Systemic delay poses the greatest challenge to juveniles in the justice system. Zambian law recognizes juveniles as a vulnerable group, and rightly seeks to protect them with extra procedures and oversight when they come in conflict with the law. However, while these procedures are designed to protect juveniles, they can ultimately result in confusion and delays—sometimes measured in years, not weeks or months.
the way forward
Legal intervention is needed to protect juveniles’ rights in court. Advocacy is needed to promote law and policy reforms to change how this vulnerable group experiences justice. We are committed to partnership with stakeholders in the prison system, the judiciary and civil society to make this a reality.