Josphat Njobvu

Ashoka Fellow
Zambia,
Fellow Since 2015

Citation

This profile was prepared when Josphat Njobvu was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
Through his organization, Advocacy for Child Justice (ACJ), Josphat has pioneered a practical model for dealing with children especially those who commit petty crimes, by creating a parallel structure of children reformation under a program called Community Correction Centers-Building Lives. The idea is to showcase a community based model of effective reformation which focuses on positive behavioral changes without isolating a child offender from his family, community and other support systems. Working with the judiciary-courts, Prisons, Department of social welfare, police stations as referral points, petty offenders are diverted from prisons to Community Correctional Centers-Building Lives project where they undergo a needs-based reformation and restorative program.

As part of the reformation process, professionals like social workers, psychologists and educators facilitate behavioral change and community reintegration. The program also includes a strong support network comprised of the offender’s family, friends and community members to encourage the individual to reflect upon his behavior and make positive life choices. Since education is a very important aspect of the program, ‘back to school’ reintegration with in-house after school academic support is offered as part of each child’s reformation plan.

The justice system, through the police, safeguards the process by closely monitoring the progress of each participant and engaging in decision making processes—together with the Department of Social Welfare and ACJ—about how to proceed with the reformation plan. The CCC-Building Livesalso doubles as drop-in centers for play and socialization thereby enabling the program to reach at-risk youth by causing behavioral changes.

Another arm of Josphat’s strategy is advocacy. ACJ advocates for changes in the Zambian constitution, laws and policies guiding the Child justice system to ensure that they incorporate and recognize child rights and justice. Under this program, Josphat works with in-house and volunteer legal experts whose primary focus is to analyze laws, policies and processes within the justice system in order to expose child rights infringements and gaps. Through consultancy, research and advocacy, the program influences policy formulation to ensure that the government puts in place legal instruments (laws and policies) which recognize child rights. Through these legal instruments, the justice system can be held accountable for child rights infringements. For the past three years, ACJ’s advocacy work has focused on three child related pieces of legislation and policies the panel code, Prison Act, the Juvenile Act and the National Child Policy. These policies create a supportive environment for the establishment of CCC-Building Lives and ensure that the rights of children already in the system are safeguarded. The program has contributed to the formulation of the Administration of Child Justice Bill embedded in child code, which laws will repeal the current Juvenile Act and other child related laws which has been adopted by the Zambia Law Development Commission (ZLDC) and will be tabled in parliament sometime this year 2015. . Once approved, the Bill will replace the current Juvenile Act and will legitimize the CCC-Building Lives model as part of Zambia’s Child Justice System as part of diversion laws at community level—among other policy changes.

Two new ventures with ACJ are the Legal Desk and Early Childhood Care and Development Education (ECCDE). Recognizing the significant delays in the justice system especially for children from poor families and disadvantaged communities, Josphat pioneered another program under ACJ called the Legal Desk. The idea is to put the justice process on the fast-track by cutting down the amount of time children spend waiting in holding cells for sentencing. ACJ has legal desks in the five main provincial prisons of Zambia manned by volunteer legal practitioners and para-legals. The legal practitioners take-on all Children cases referred to the prisons to fast track them through the system and ensure that the children’s rights are not violated during the process. Currently, ACJ has 10 paralegals serving 10% (about 534) of all juveniles being held in custody, with an average of five new referrals a week.

ECCDE targets babies behind bars, that is, very young children who accompany their mothers to prison either because of a lack of childcare options or because they are under four years of age and are required by current laws to do so. ACJ has partnered with a local early-childhood education center and Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) to develop a mobile education center for babies behind bars. The model is currently working in Lusaka’s main prison. The initiative began in 2014 by working with the children for just one day a week and now works with them three days a week with plans to be developed into a sustainable mobile early childhood education and care center.

The vision for ACJ developed in 2009 but was only registered and fully implemented in 2013. Over the past few years of operation, the four-strategy model has already demonstrated significant impact on both the material problem and child rights within the justice system. During the course of two years, the CCC-Building Lives have worked with more than 71 young offenders— registering a successful reintegration rate of 80% and engages more than 461 at-risk youth within the community through the drop-in facility. Having proven the CCC-building Lives model, Josphat wants to take it to other provinces of the country. Josphat is currently strategizing on how to scale his impact by considering ways to effectively work within justice systems at provincial and district levels without ACJ owning and running all CCC-Building Lives centrally.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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