Grounded evidence-based research and learning – enhancing the impact of legal-empowerment programs in Africa
In East Africa, paralegalism and access to justice is an evolving field and practice. Strategies like legal advice by refugee-trained paralegals, group human rights education, and community mobilizing by civil society organizations have helped to empower local groups and communities, including minorities, in advancing their rights. Against this background, this project will conduct in-depth, empirical, and participatory action research to assess the efficacy of legal-aid programs in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia.
The project will examine legal-aid programs by the state, NGO, and pro-bono practices. It will analyze how these programs are performing in terms of transforming lives of communities, particularly those which are marginalized and vulnerable, and bringing about structural change to the justice system. Specifically, the project will examine the strategies that have been put in place to promote legal empowerment, such as the provision of legal aid and legal information. The project will also examine entry points for tailor-making capacity building for justice actors and stakeholders in the legal-empowerment arena. Further, in view of COVID-19, the project also seeks to examine the impact of the pandemic on the justice sector and the role of paralegalism, including the use of technology.
The project will identify gaps and recommend strategies for fostering transformative and systemic change in the legal-empowerment sector in the entire East Africa region. It will also support and foster the equal participation of women and men as researchers, research participants, and users of legal-empowerment programs. There will be an emphasis on distilling lessons about how legal-empowerment experiences have, or can, contribute to overcoming exclusion, inequality, and injustice.