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legal empowerment

legal empowerment, women's rights

New World Bank Working Paper on Paralegals in Philippines

A great new World Bank Justice & Development Working Paper has been published by Jennifer Franco, Hector Soliman, and Maria Roda Cisnero, focusing on community based paralegalism in the Philippines. The abstract is as follows: Community-based paralegalism has been active in the Philippines for the past 30 years, and yet its contribution to access to justice and the advancement of the rights and entitlements of the poor has been largely undocumented. This paper attempts to provide a framework study on the history, nature, and scope of paralegal work in the Philippines, based on the experience of 12 organizations that are active…

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human rights, international development, legal empowerment, personal, public interest law, women's rights

New article on legal empowerment in Bangladesh!

I am truly excited to announce my very first published paper! I’ve been working on this paper since 2012, when I spent two months in Bangladesh researching BRAC’s expansive and community-based legal aid and legal empowerment program, and particularly its impact on women’s rights. I’m very happy to say that my piece has been published by the World Bank Justice and Development Working Paper Series. I could not be more thankful to BRAC for allowing me to conduct this research and to study their access to justice and dispute resolution model, and also to the World Bank for choosing to…

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international development, legal empowerment, public interest law, women's rights

Legal aid as a right: India’s example

This past January, I had the fortune of researching Muslim women’s legal rights under family law and inheritance law, as well as civil laws relating to domestic violence, child marriage, and dowry in India. It was a fantastic learning experience, and what I learned about India truly impressed me. India has some incredible laws on paper to protect women’s rights, including strong rights and entitlements relating to domestic violence and dowry. Yet, the challenge that I always observe comes down, once again, to the implementation gap. When it comes to implementation, I often turn to legal aid — can people…

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human rights, international development, legal empowerment, personal, travel, women's rights

Salone Stories: Justice and Conflict in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is quite firmly post-conflict, with the war soon receding into the space of distant memory. And yet, the wounds of the war still appear raw at times, at least directly beneath the surface, where anger and frustration seem simmering in a pot threatening to boil over once again. The ghosts of wartime past still linger in conversations. One man tells me about fleeing the war and being forced to be a refugee in neighboring Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Liberia. Another young woman tells me that her father was killed in the war, leaving her family – a mother…

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legal empowerment, non-profit, public interest law, social change, women's rights

Accessing Justice: Best Practices for Women’s Legal Empowerment

The concept of legal empowerment seems to be gaining more traction, and I couldn’t be more excited. IDLO has released an excellent new report called “Accessing Justice: Models, Strategies and Best Practices on Women’s Empowerment.” The study is an excellent overview of legal empowerment and its complexities: legal education, legal services, dispute resolution, and its interactions with informal justice system as well as its ultimate impact on women’s empowerment. Here are some of the very interesting findings of the report: On Violence Against Women in Afghanistan: Comprehensive statistics on VAW in Afghanistan are not available. “Nonetheless, available data at this stage…

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feature friday, legal empowerment, public interest law, social change

Feature Friday: African Voices of Legal Empowerment

Namati – a great new network on legal empowerment – has launched a wonderful new multimedia series called African Voices of Legal Empowerment.  The series includes a number of fascinating personal interviews with legal empowerment practitioners from all over the African continent discussing what they do. These lawyers and paralegals describe their work, tell stories of cases they’ve worked on, and describe how the work has changed them. The interviews are inspiring, and tell a rare story of legal aid and empowerment – and how it can improve lives in concrete ways. This is a story that needs to be…

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human rights, international development, legal empowerment, non-profit, public interest law

NGOs and the State: Thoughts on Legal Aid in Bangladesh

In a short, but great, article on Legal Aid in Bangladesh, Ian Morrison, Director of the Bangladesh Legal Aid Reform Project, has provided a useful macro-level criticism of the legal aid system as it stands. He writes,  It is far easier and more immediately rewarding to work with NGOs, who have mastered the discourse of access to justice that donors want to hear, who can produce results fairly quickly and who can provide a more holistic service approach than will ever be possible under government legal aid. Nevertheless, the value of this approach in the long term must be questioned….

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international development, legal empowerment, public interest law, social change

Legal Empowerment in Post-Disaster Haiti

I recently ran across a really great, short article published in the Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights (shoutout to my alma mater!). In “A Rights-Based Approach to Lawyering: Legal Empowerment as an Alternative to Legal Aid in Post-Disaster Haiti,” Meena Jagannath, Nicole Phillips & Jeena Shah write about the legal empowerment approach taken by the Institute of Justice and Democracy (IJDH) in Haiti and its local Haitian partner, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI). An excerpt: While traditional legal aid works within the confines of a lawyer-client relationship, legal empowerment includes victims of human rights violations as partners in advocacy…

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human rights, international development, legal empowerment, public interest law, women's rights

Why I’m in Dhaka: Grassroots Justice in Bangladesh

I came to Dhaka to study and write about the exciting movement towards legal empowerment, and I have not been disappointed. Last week, in Faridpur, I got a taste of what grassroots legal services work looks like. I had the opportunity to interview lawyers, legal aid clinic managers, ‘barefoot lawyers’ and clients themselves about BRAC’s legal aid services, and I came away inspired and renewed by the hope for what can be possible. Certainly, things were not perfect. Far from it: challenges abounded for women as they battled social stigma, domestic violence, harassment, and poverty while attempting to move on with…

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human rights, international development, legal empowerment, personal, travel

Taking the leap – A Summer in Bangladesh

Asalaam Alaikum from colorful and crowded Dhaka, Bangladesh! I’m here working with BRAC’s Human Rights and Legal Services (HRLS) Department pursuing a dream opportunity of spending time in Bangladesh and seeing many of my theoretical ideas about legal aid and access to justice in South Asia in action on the ground. Before I embark on my journey, I wanted to share some thoughts and reflections: Why Bangladesh? Well, primarily because of BRAC, an NGO I have long admired as an inspiring combination of large-scale development efforts combined with grassroots organizing and mobilization. Founded in 1972, BRAC is the largest antipoverty group in…

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