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Announcing the Winners of the 2019 Legal Empowerment Leadership Course Awards

Each year, for the past 5 years, Namati and the Legal Empowerment Network have collaborated with partners to run the Legal Empowerment Leadership Course at the Central European University in Budapest. The aim of the one-week course is to cultivate a global cadre of leaders who are committed to legal empowerment, and who share a common understanding of the field, including history, methodology, and evidence.

The course is designed to evoke discussion and equip participants with practical knowledge to advance their legal empowerment work. This includes practical skills sessions on topics like power mapping, community legal education pedagogy, and using case data for advocacy.

To this end, each participant is required to develop a detailed work plan based on course sessions and daily feedback from their peers. In 2018, we introduced awards for outstanding participant work plans. The organizational work plans that receives the most votes from faculty and fellow participants are each awarded $5,000 USD to support them in their implementation.

Namati and the Legal Empowerment Network are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019 Legal Empowerment Leadership Course Awards.

VESNA SHAPKOSKI (Association for Legal Education and Transparency, North Macedonia)

Vesna’s work-plan focuses on improving access to legal and paralegal aid to people from marginalized communities in North Macedonia such as people living in rural areas, families living in social risk and former prisoners. Vesna’s program entails the launching of a website containing a “Call emergency paralegal aid” window with options for electronic and phone communication.

BHAVNA RAMJI (Casual Workers Advice Office, South Africa)

Bhavna aims to improve her organization’s programs by shifting its focus to supporting the casual workers they serve to become experts in their own cases, on each other’s cases, and part of the advocacy around them. The objective is to transform clients into a group of leaders who can directly claim their own interests against the government and their employers, instead of being passive recipients of legal services. Among the planned activities is the convening of small group discussions with representatives from different cases, and transforming these meetings into capacity-building and strategizing activities.

MARINA DIAS (Instituto de Defesa do Direito de Defesa [IDDD, Institute for Defense of the Right to Defense], Brazil)

Marina’s work-plan covers a legal empowerment project focusing on incarcerated women and mothers. It aims to empower women leaders to devise strategies to convince the judges of the importance of having these women around their families and their communities. The project pushes for the implementation of a 2016 law that guarantees the right of women who are pregnant and/or have children under 12 years old and/or a child with some disability, to respond to the process under provisional release or house arrest. This project also intends to raise awareness on securing liberty for incarcerated women as part of the agenda on gender and violence while advocating for a community organizing approach.

TOM WEERACHAT (International Accountability Project, Thailand)

Tom’s work-plan aims to strengthen and popularize the legitimacy of community-led data. Specifically, Tom plans to collect and consolidate cases where the legitimacy of community-led monitoring and evaluation, and community-led data collection and analysis, is being questioned by governments, companies, and development finance institutions. The work-plan entails the compilation of reliable methodology for community-driven data collection and analysis, and reaching out to other organizations who face similar problems on their data. Tom’s work-plan also aims to systematize their data collection to focus more on systemic change, and to share what they learn through this process with partner organizations.

MARTHA OPILI (Keeping Alive Societies’ Hope [KASH], Kenya)

Martha’s work-plan focuses on the recognition and regulation of community-based, theme-specific paralegals. The work-plan aims to facilitate the involvement of the paralegals in dialogues with the state and paralegal regulatory bodies on legal empowerment and paralegal recognition and regulation. The work-plan advocates for a proper paralegal regulatory structure/policy that puts into consideration the divergent needs of community paralegals.

UYANGA TSOGTSAIKHAN (Asia-Africa Development Relief Fund [ADRF], Mongolia)

Uyanga’s work-plan involves the redesign of her organization’s curriculum for a legal aid project. The project will have the objective of not only educating the community members on their legal issues, but also train and support selected participants to be paralegals. These paralegals will offer legal aid services to their community, and serve as the agents of legal empowerment; educating and encouraging their communities to speak up and fight for justice.

CHELCY ALMA AMINATA HEROE (Domestic Helpers Organization, Sierra Leone)

Chelcy’s work-plan centers on the recognition of the rights of domestic workers and the reduction of rights violations. The work-plan involves advocacy for free space for the formation of domestic workers’ unions, the development of a legal framework referral pathway, and training and support to domestic workers. The work-plan aims to build a movement of domestic workers in the country that will harness their collective power to push for systemic change.

SHRUTI SHRESTHA (Nepal Disabled Women Association, Nepal)

Shruti’s work-plan focuses on empowering women and girls with disabilities to become effective community leaders that will take the initiative to assert their rights. The work-plan aims to address the challenges of exclusion, inequality, identity, accessibility, and justice that women with disabilities face in their daily lives.


For more information about the 2019 Legal Empowerment Leadership Course, please visit this summary post on the Network’s discussion forum.

August 15, 2020 | Legal Empowerment Network

Region: > Global