Global Rights, Namati and Open Society Justice Initiative Convene African Regional Workshop for Community-based Paralegal Programs
Kampala, Uganda – Global Rights, Namati, and Open Society Justice Initiative will hold a three-day workshop on July 9-11, 2012 for community-based paralegal programs from across sub-Saharan Africa. The workshop brings together representatives of nearly 50 community-based paralegal programs from over 20 countries. Participants will explore and compare the role of paralegals in national legal aid policies; innovative strategies for addressing common challenges such as gender- based violence, conflicts over land and natural resources, and accountability of basic services; and operational issues such as methods for paralegal training and evaluating impact.
“Paralegals are critically important for making justice accessible in Africa,” says Mary Wyckoff, Global Rights’ Director of Programs, who oversees Global Rights’ paralegal capacity-building programs in northern Nigeria and western Uganda. “With limited numbers of lawyers in many African countries, and fewer still outside of urban areas, community-based paralegals help to fill the justice gap. They raise awareness in their communities and provide services like legal counseling, mediation, and court accompaniment.”
Uganda’s Chief Justice, the Honorable Benjamin Joseph Odoki, will open the workshop with a keynote speech on the importance of paralegals in national legal aid policy.“We are privileged to have the Honorable Justice Odoki make opening remarks,” says Donald Rukare, Global Rights’ Uganda Country Director. “Chief Justice Odoki has been a staunch supporter of making a place for paralegals in the currently proposed national legal aid policy and law in Uganda.”
The workshop’s comparative approach will enable participants to look across borders and learn from other leaders in the field. Participants from Sierra Leone, for instance, will discuss the advocacy approach that pushed a landmark legal aid law through Parliament in May 2012; the law endorsed paralegals as providers of legal aid services. National paralegal networks from Kenya and South Africa will discuss the role of institutional partnerships and coordination in scaling up paralegal services. Participants from Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will analyze paralegals’ efforts to work with local communities to demand accountability from large companies in the extractives industry, as well as government service providers.
“This workshop marks the first time that so many leaders from paralegal programs across Africa will be coming together to reflect on existing experience, debate collective goals, and explore new and meaningful directions for the region’s paralegal efforts,” notes Abigail Moy, Namati’s Program Director for the Global Legal Empowerment Network, an international community of grassroots justice organizations. “The event represents an important step towards the cultivation of a stronger, broader movement for community-based paralegals and legal empowerment as a whole.”
Read more coverage on the the event in New Vision (Uganda).