Joëlle Kabagambe, RWANDA

About Joëlle

Joëlle Kabagambe is a Fellow at Rwanda Bridges to Justice (RBJ) and serves as a Mentor for the African Access to Justice Women’s Network. She has been with RBJ since 2016 and joined as a permanent Defender Resource Center Lawyer in 2018. Joëlle has defended numerous cases involving criminal, civil, commercial, and administrative matters. She serves on the administrative board of the French International Bar Association and is a member of the Fédération des Associations et Union des Jeunes Avocats, as well as the East Africa Law Society. Currently, she manages a task force of 125 lawyers and a network of women lawyers focusing on criminal cases.

The Challenge

Many accused and detained women lack financial independence and find themselves in conflict with the law while trying to care for their children. These detained women are often single mothers who cannot afford legal representation.

The Innovation

Joëlle’s project aimed to provide vulnerable women in conflict with the law with free legal representation and to establish a supportive network for current and future women lawyers.

Despite challenges posed by COVID-19, Joëlle successfully established a national chapter with 10 women lawyers committed to providing pro bono legal aid to women in conflict with the law. The AA2J network facilitated the exchange of ideas and collaboration among its members to enhance practices in defending their clients’ interests. The chapter also engaged with members of other chapters in Niger, Burundi, Ivory Coast, and Senegal. Through close collaboration with prison services, the Rwanda team was permitted to visit approximately 30 women detainees on July 8, 2021. Additionally, the team established partnerships with the social services at women’s prisons, the Association of Senegalese Jurists, and a YMCA program supporting prisoners. By the end of the project, chapter-affiliated members had represented 70 accused women.