Creating comic books for legal education in Namibia

Open Road

By Andrea Vizsolyi

The Legal Assistance Centre’s Gender Research and Advocacy Project (GR&AP) in Windhoek, Namibia, has been hosting interns through YLIP for many years. We (fellow intern Samantha Wynne and I) have participated in several projects throughout our time here, including research, commenting on and drafting legislation, and more. We have been lucky enough to spend time developing our community-based skills as well. Almost the entirety of our work revolves around gender equality.

Our primary involvement in the community came through the projects we were assigned upon arrival. I was first assigned child exploitation, and subsequently press freedom. I saw these projects through from their inception to their end – the first step was to draft comic books for educational purposes, with accompanying booklets.

The comic book drafting process was unique; I came up with the storyline and dialogue, and after several edits between all the staff at GR&AP, we sent the panels to an artist. We worked closely with this artist through a number of proposed sketches until we got everything just right. Once the artistry and dialogue was done, we sent the comics for layout.

The comic books will soon be published online, at the Legal Assistance Centre’s website. The child exploitation comic is still under review, as the Regulations which it is based on have just been finalised, and need to be cross-referenced with the material in the comic. The Child Care and Protection Act has been in the making for over 20 years, with the Regulations finally coming into force January 30, 2019 (a huge accomplishment for GR&AP, who worked tirelessly on this legislation for all those years). 

After drafting these comics, we set up pre-publication workshops with community leaders in the township of Katatura, to ensure that our work was valuable and could be easily understood by non-lawyers. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive at this stage, but one notable struggle was language – the educational materials were only accessible in English. Though English is the official language in Namibia, there are upwards of 20 different languages spoken in the country. Some people cannot read or speak English. This is feedback we continued to get in our post-publication workshops. Unfortunately, lack of funding has made translation impossible for the time being. Translation is very expensive and time-consuming; it requires employing an original translator and a proof-reader, and there are often fundamental disagreements about certain words within the tribal languages. Even if translation budgets are attained, it is not feasible to translate into every language.

We led sessions on our topics over the course of two days of workshops in the town of Walvis Bay. The opportunity to engage with the public to teach them about laws that will be coming into existence, empower women to claim their rights, as well as participate in healthy discussion about the difficulties of implementing these laws in Namibia, was very rewarding. The topic of child exploitation in particular is a difficult one in Namibia – many activities which may be harmful to children, such as working on a farm, or walking miles in the heat to fetch water, are commonplace in some cultures.

We have also conducted a workshop at a school to educate teachers about corporal punishment, which is a tough topic in Namibian schools, despite being outlawed since shortly after the country obtained independence.

We are excited for what 2019 has in store for GR&AP!

Andrea Vizsolyi was called to the bar in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018