Five delegates from the Republic of Zambia took part in a month-long international experience exchange program in the U.S launched by Global Alliance for Health to combat the alarming number of child sexual abuse (CSA) and gender-based violence (GBV) in the Republic of Zambia. This program, which took place October 2014, provided the Zambian delegates a unique opportunity to observe, interact, and collaborate with fellow U.S colleagues about their experiences in effectively responding to CSA and GBV. For this phase of the EEFP, we were thrilled to be able to host this program’s highest level delegation to date: A judiciary team comprised of two Zambian judges and three prosecutors from the National Prosecution’s Authority (Delegation members: Honorable Judge Chalwe Farai Ralph Mchenga, Honorable Senior Magistrate Davies Chali Mumba, Deputy Chief State Advocate Mrs. Febby Maimbo Ziela, and Senior State Advocates Mrs. Mercy Pondamali Lungu and Mr. Ian Katongo Waluzimba). In the past, this program, which has previously hosted Zambian doctors, police officers, and forensic scientists, had significantly increased the capacity of a multidisciplinary team response to such devastating cases in the Republic of Zambia, and this phase of the program was no different.
The delegates arrived to the San Francisco Bay Area early October and spent the remainder of month attending multidisciplinary team meetings with our U.S team of expert advisors and visiting a number of our partner organizations—which include governmental agencies and NGOs—in different counties around the area. Based on the delegation’s professional background, this agenda stressed heavily on an examination of the U.S legal and criminal justice system and the investigation and prosecution processes of GBV and CSA cases.
During the first day of the program, GAH’s CEO Michael Melewicz and COO Shota Shubladze, welcomed the Zambian delegates to the Bay Area with introductions to our network of U.S expert advisors from partner organizations (U.S team include: Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Karen Meredith, Napa County Assistant District Attorney Paul Gero, Napa DA Investigator John (JR) McDonald, Child Interview Specialist/Training Coordinator at CALICO Kristy Brodeur Dermody, and Contra Costa Sr. Deputy District Attorney of the Sexual Assault/ Family Violence Unit Bruce T. Flynn). Following the introductory meeting, the bulk of this week was focused on informative trainings conducted by some of our U.S expert advisors about the investigation and prosecution of CSA and GBV and the role of child advocacy centers in this process. The first week also included several visits to Alameda County, where the delegates met with the DA Sexual Assault Team and were introduced to Judge Hymer and Judge Clay at the Alameda County Superior Court. Among the coordinated activities included this week were tours of the Center for Child Protection at the Oakland Children’s Hospital as well as the Forensic DNA Crime Lab at the Oakland Police Department.
During their second week, the delegates continued to visit agencies and departments in the greater Alameda County. Two visits they made were to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, which serves the unincorporated parts of the County, and the Santa Rita Jail, which houses the majority of people arrested in Alameda County. From their visit to the jail, they delegates were given a first-hand look at the U.S local jail system, something that Zambia does not have as they currently only operate on a centralized national level. The delegates also had a unique opportunity to sit in on a 1984 cold case murder trial that reopened due to new forensic DNA findings. This trial was of particular interest to our delegates since their country currently lacks DNA technology, and GAH has been actively working towards establishing the first forensic DNA Lab in the Republic of Zambia.
The delegates made a final trip in Alameda County to the Alameda County Family Justice Center (ACFJC), a multi-agency center that serves as a one-stop facility for victims of domestic violence and sexual exploitation. While here, the delegates also attended a lunch meeting hosted by District Attorney of Alameda County Nancy O’Malley, who is a reformer and author of many innovative programs. This informal meeting, which was also attended by five Alameda County Superior Court Judges, provided a unique opportunity to increase direct dialogue between professionals with similar, yet very different, backgrounds.
Following the Alameda County visits, the delegates began exploring similar systems in other neighboring counties. The first was Napa County, where the delegates visited a number of governmental agencies, namely the Napa County District Attorney’s office (hosted by two of our U.S Expert Advisors: Napa County Assistant DA Paul Gero and DA Investigator John MacDonald), Napa County Sheriff’s Department’s Crime Lab, and Napa Police Department. These visits, while similar to those in Alameda County, provided insight into the ways in which counties operate and manage CSA and GBV cases differently. While there, the delegates’ also met with the elected District Attorney for Napa County, Gary Lieberstein, who has been a long-time supporter of Global Alliance for Health’s Experience Exchange Fellowship Program.
One of the biggest highlights of this program included a visit to the Supreme Court of California, the highest state court in California. During this visit, the delegates received a wonderful tour by Supreme Court Justice Carol A. Corrigan and also had the opportunity to chat with her about the criminal justice system in her chambers.
Besides that, the delegates also met with the elected District Attorney for San Francisco County, George Gascón and Assistant District Attorney Marianne Barrett. The two parties discussed various matters regarding GBV, such as the low reporting of domestic violence cases from undocumented immigrants.
Contra Costa County was the final stop of the program’s agenda. This one-day visit was organized and hosted by Contra Costa County Senior Deputy District Attorney Bruce Flynn. While here, delegates visited Contra Costa County’s child interviewing center and engaged in enjoyable discussion with Flynn, as well as the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence team leaders, about their domestic violence and sexual assault case response systems and operations.
The program concluded with an evaluation session with Global Alliance for Health’s CEO Michael Melewicz and COO Shota Shubladze. This meeting allowed our organization to obtain valuable written and oral feedback about the program. Overall, the delegates spoke very highly of the program, and indicated their desire to see groups relevant to this cause also participate in this program in the future. Although the delegates have since returned to their home country, they have agreed to hold a meeting once they are settled in to make recommendations based on their experience in the U.S. A committee will be formed in Zambia to address legal reform and the planning of the next steps of the program. Currently, Global Alliance for Health is gearing up for another experience exchange program in the coming months. This time around, we will be hosting social advocacy leaders from different ministries of Zambia and we hope that this experience can help promote countrywide reform.