(2011) JLP 64: 1-31
This contribution explores the links between women’s lived realities with plural law and development interventions that aim at improving women’s access to justice. Based on a case study in Pemba city, northern Mozambique, the paper illustrates the relevance of incorporating ‘actor oriented’ perspectives on gender and legal change within justice sector aid. First, it describes the justice landscape of Pemba city in terms of the legal actors to whom women resort, their procedures, the types of case that they deal with and how they relate to each other. Secondly, it depicts the kinds of strategy that have been supported at the national level and in Pemba city in order to improve women’s access to justice, and analyses how these relate to the justice landscape of Pemba. Third, it examines the testimonies provided by different women in Pemba city regarding their perspectives on justice processes and their experiences with the law while exploring how the latter are related to programmatic efforts. This exercise reveals that the enforcement of justice forum decisions is a crucial area for women’s access to justice that remains out of sight. The conclusion argues that understanding women’s lived realities with the law is essential in two ways. On the one hand, it is necessary for assessing the kinds of process that interventions set in motion and the extent to which the latter contribute to the realisation of women’s rights. On the other hand, it uncovers areas of intervention that remain unaddressed despite their potential to generate positive changes.