After ten years of service, IJM is phasing out its work in Zambia, where we have protected vulnerable widows and orphans threatened with the illegal theft of their homes and property.
IJM remains committed to combatting illegal land grabbing in Africa. Concluding our work in Zambia by the end of 2014 will enable us to more deeply invest our efforts and resources in the areas of greatest need in our mission to protect the poor from violence; this strategic decision coincides with our Zambia team’s finding fewer serious cases of property grabbing in recent years in our urban Lusaka project area.
We are immensely grateful for all that has been accomplished by our team and partners on behalf of Zambia’s widows and orphans. Since 2007 alone, IJM Zambia has brought justice and provided critical aftercare to over 1200 victims of property grabbing, restoring them to their rightful property and providing them protection from further abuse and exploitation. The Zambia team has also trained and equipped over 10,000 police officers, prosecutors, judges, church leaders and community members at over 1,000 training events in responding effectively to property grabbing and other forms of gender based violence.
We are also grateful for the extraordinary partners we have worked alongside over the last ten years, including the committed staff within the Victim Support Unit of the Zambian Police Service, the National Prosecution Authority, the Administrator General, Women and The Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), World Vision Zambia and the many other excellent government and private organizations who will continue to stand against property grabbing and other forms gender-based violence in Zambia.
IJM will continue to address property grabbing from widows and orphans through field offices in Gulu, Uganda and Kampala, Uganda.
Why did IJM close the Zambia office?
Phasing out our work in urban Lusaka will enable us to more deeply invest our efforts and resources in the areas of greatest need in our mission to protect the poor from violence. This strategic decision coincides with our Zambia team finding fewer serious cases of property grabbing in recent years in our urban Lusaka project area.
Does this decision affect any other IJM field offices?
IJM plans to continue operations in all other current field offices. IJM will continue to address property grabbing its two field offices in Uganda (Kampala and Gulu).
Is the office closing due to financial reasons?
We work to steward IJM’s financial resources carefully and effectively. After significant consideration, we have concluded that phasing out our program in Zambia will allow for the highest impact use of financial resources globally in our mission to protect the poor from violence. Our Zambia team has identified fewer serious cases of property grabbing in our urban Lusaka project area, and, as a result, we have made the decision to focus our resources on more urgent needs in our other project areas.
Why not shift to addressing a different form of abuse in Zambia?
While it is possible that we could launch a new project in Zambia in the future, we believe the best course for IJM at this time is to focus the resources and efforts that building the foundation for a new project in Zambia would require on other mission-critical needs.
Will you return to Zambia in the future?
We do not plan to return to Zambia in the short-term. Though the possibility exists that we could return to Zambia at some point in the future, we have no plans to do so at this time.
Where else is IJM combating property grabbing?
IJM will continue to combat property grabbing from widows and orphans through our teams in Kampala, Uganda and Gulu, Uganda.
What is a “serious” case of property grabbing?
Property grabbing is a crime in which more powerful members of a community steal the homes, land or other property from more vulnerable members of the community, often through violent threats and coercion. At IJM, we prioritize addressing property grabbing cases in which the victim is in a position of significant vulnerability and cannot access help through other channels, and in which the perpetrators threaten to steal property that will have a devastating impact on the victim. In practice, this means we prioritize cases in which the primary home of a widow or orphan is threatened, often with violence. Our team in urban Lusaka has been seeing fewer cases like this.
Was there justice system transformation in Zambia?
IJM’s model of Justice System Transformation involves partnering with local authorities to address systemic issues in the criminal justice system. Though there remains significant work to be done, we have witnessed performance improvements in key parts of the justice system as a result of our training and extensive Collaborative Casework with police and the local court system. We have also witnessed important and positive changes in attitudes and beliefs of among members of the Lusaka community about property grabbing. However, we have not conducted a formal research study (an important element of the Justice System Transformation model) that conclusively demonstrates that our experience of fewer serious property grabbing cases in our project area is the result of these improvements.
What are you doing for the widows and orphans you were serving in Zambia?
The team currently has a caseload of approximately 50 cases. By year end, the team will likely conclude approximately 15-20 cases successfully. For the remaining cases, we will provide our clients with support from legal and aftercare partners.
How will this closure impact IJM’s 2017 vision?
We anticipate that we will still exceed our very ambitious 2017 vision targets for rescuing victims and bringing criminals to justice. Additionally, phasing out our Zambia program will enable us to achieve the crucial elements of the 2017 vision around fueling a strong justice movement; these elements of the vision are critical in order for us to protect the poor from violence sustainably and efficiently over the long-term.
When we established the vision in 2007, our experience at that point led us to look to the opening of field offices as the best strategy for expanding our work and impact. Though new field offices are an important element of the strategy, we have also found other effective ways to drive impact – such as our model in India, where we have expanded our work to 9 states through partnership with other organizations that are now replicating our proven collaborative casework model. With the phase out of the Zambia program, we will have 18 field offices at the end of 2014.