Maria Matui, TANZANIA

About Maria

Maria Matui is the Executive Director of Women Action Towards Economic Development, Chairperson of the Coalition for Gender and Change, and a Board member of Women Human Rights Defenders. Maria specializes in Access to Justice, as well as Social, Economic, and Gender programs, with experience in operations, finance, and project management. She is trained in women’s leadership and human rights advocacy. Maria has managed professional institutions, including serving as acting CEO for both the Tanganyika Law Society and the National Legal Fraternity for Lawyers, and she is a founding member of a Tanzanian NGO. She has built partnerships and developed projects such as Women Human Rights Defenders training, paralegal human rights education, and connecting access to justice with legal empowerment.

The Challenge

Tanzania has a shortage of lawyers specializing in cases involving vulnerable women and girls in conflict with the law. The lower number of women facing criminal charges compared to men often leads to their cases being overlooked. Additionally, the financial constraints faced by many women and girls mean that the legal representation required is often pro bono.

The Innovation

Based in Dar es Salaam, Maria’s project involved collaborating with local authorities, such as the Police Gender Desk and juvenile court magistrates, to address delays in justice that frequently result in gender-based violence (GBV) and human rights violations. Specifically, the project developed a referral system for pro bono legal representation through a network of professional bodies specializing in women’s and girls’ rights and access to justice, including the newly established Tanzania AA2J chapter of women lawyers committed to providing pro bono legal aid. During the project, 72 women received legal assistance from program-affiliated lawyers, although many cases are still ongoing. Maria and her chapter utilized radio programs to inform the public about the project, raise awareness of GBV within the criminal justice system, and encourage community cooperation with the legal system to protect women and children.