Under the Lawyers for Resource Justice initiative, I am in contact with many small, grassroots organizations working on land and natural resource issues. One of the largest challenges many of these groups face is the lack of legal professionals in their organization and in their area. For example, one organization working on land conflict in a Kiteto district in Tanzania reports that there is only 1 licensed lawyer for three entire districts in their region. So whenever they have a need for legal support, such as filing a court case, there is a bottle-neck as they wait for access to this one licensed lawyer. They want to find ways to support more people in their district to become advocates - either trained as lawyers or paralegals.
Does anyone know of programs or models designed to increase access to legal training, with the aim of producing more legal advocates for under-served rural areas?
Great question! I know that one way that has proven very successful is utilizing local university clinics in provincial capitals to provide more reach, although there has to be a program and a supervising lawyer or staff member.
Specifically for Tanzania, I would be curious if @nobel knows of any groups with more rural reach for legal consultation and assistance there?
That’s a good question indeed. Women Legal Aid Center (WLAC) has been
developing grassroots advocates all over the country. Asylum Access is
currently reaching out to these already existing Paralegal units to build
their capacity on refugee legal aid provision. Also Tanganyika Law Society
(TLS) can be a good institution to reach out to as they know exactly how
many lawyers licenced to practice in the court. TLS has also has a mandate
to assign any case to any advocate. The Legal and Human Rights Center
(LHRC) also have a program to develop paralegals. Those are some of the
avenues one might consider reaching out to in Tanzania. Lawyers, after
gtaduating are likely more willing to remain or move in urban centers
rather than staying in rural areas. So, developing grassroots
advocates/paralegals programs woulde very beneficial to rural population.
@marenabrinkhurst thanks for raising this important issue. I think this is exactly the kind of situation where Namati’s approach to paralegals is of great significance. While people need licensed lawyers for some remedies (especially in courts); it is the knowledge of law and administrative procedures that can help people address their own problems, including those related to land conflict. The legal and paralegal training which we have been doing as part of the EJ program is often in situations where there are no lawyers or are not accessible to the most vulnerable populations.
@bharatpatel @meenakshikapoor @mrhegde @manjumenon might be able to add more to this from the EJ experience.
@lauragoodwin and @yeyinth and other colleagues from the Myanmar team; have you also been doing legal trainings?
As knowledge of law and administrative procedures is very important for the paralegals, our paralegal trainings definitely include the sessions both at the new and refresher trainings. In Myanmar paralegal trainings are jointly conducted by Namati and its local partner. Generally the trainings are break down under 3 main categories, i) knowledge of law and administrative procedures, ii) skills and iii) experiences sharing and peer learning.
Through legal knowledge sessions are mainly facilitated by the full time project lawyers attached with our partner organization, Namati team members often contributes with updates of laws and procedures. The joint project team work together not only conducting the trainings but also in providing ongoing supervision and followup supports to the paralegals.
Addition to that, we also established a system of monthly resource sharing to the paralegals and their supporters. Both of Namati and partner organization contributed with resources on law, administrative procedures and updates related to land, etc.
We have been doing legal trainings wherein we try to focus on such provisions of the law knowledge of which can come handy for communities. The trainings after delving on the general purpose of the law and useful provisions, share practical information- procedures to be followed, institutions to be approached, time limits for the procedures, kind of resolutions expected from the institutions, etc. We also bring experiences from other filed sites in using a particular law. As most of these trainings take places where electricity situation is unreliable, we develop reading material in vernacular presenting the information mentioned above.
In addition, we are putting together a legal handbook.This handbook has a number of problem situations. For each problem situation, a list of laws and their provisions are suggested in which the remedies can be sought along with the institutions to be contacted. This is an ever evolving handbook- sort of work in progress. We will keep adding on it the problem situations and useful legal provisions.
I hope I am not too late into the conversation. Well in Nairobi especially our organization( Kituo Cha Sheria), we have a pool of trained paralegals in different parts of the country who assist the communities with their legal problems. The paralegals majorly use ADR to resolve the cases. Where case needs to go to court, the client is again referred to a volunteer advocate attached to Kituo.
Thank you @Faith - that sounds like a great support network! What type of legal training do your paralegals receive? Do any of them go on to study law further and become lawyers themselves?
My heart leaped when I first read this because I read ’ Kituo’ as ‘Kiteto’ (the area in Tanzania that is struggling to find legal support) - but now I see that you are in Kenya. Do you know of any similar networks or organizations active in neighboring Tanzania? Or does your organization ever collaborate with organizations in Tanzania? I would love ideas about how to connect the SWEAT programme in Kiteto with someone who could offer local support!
We train the paralegals on Kituo thematic areas such as land, labour, housing and refugee issues like statelessness and laws that govern refugee rights. We currently do not have any paralegals that have persued further studies inlaw except for one inmate at Kamiti prison that is currently pursuing a degree in law.
Kituo is also currently looking into partnering with council for legal education and other government organizations to develope a national curriculum for training paralegals.
Kiteto is in which part of Tanzania? It would be good to know so that I can narrow down my search on how to assist you link the organization to local support.
It sounds like a great paralegal program, Faith. We have linked several organizations to SWEAT in Kiteto currently, but we would welcome any further ideas or connections that you have.
Kiteto is a District that is part of Manyara Region, in north-eastern Tanzania.