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The participants of the South Africa legal empowerment learning
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Learning to Change the World

Faith Ochieng lives and works by the words of Nelson Mandela’s famous quote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” For her, that ‘education’ includes legal education.

Faith works with Kituo cha Sheria (KITUO), a human rights NGO committed to helping disadvantaged, poor and marginalized people in Kenya know their legal rights and access justice. KITUO is well established, with six justice centers, but they still face numerous challenges. Finding funding for their centers was

Faith Ochieng

Faith Ochieng

consistently a problem, as was documentation of experiences and successes. Faith also wanted to push the organization further, to expand its reach and impact.

In April 2015, Faith decided to join the Global Legal Empowerment Network’s first learning exchange to see if it might help her find solutions to her issues. Participants from Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda gathered in South Africa to share perspectives, challenges, and solutions in their legal empowerment work. They held in-depth discussions with legal aid groups, research institutes, legal advocacy organizations, and donors to learn about the development of community paralegals across South Africa.

The participants were also able to join the local host, the National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices (NADCAO), on-site visits to interview paralegals in eight community advice offices. Faith recalls the visit fondly: “My visit to the community advice centers based in Limpopo and Gauteng provinces in South Africa made me realize the effectiveness and importance of the work paralegals do to address the societal, economic and political challenges that communities face around them.”

Faith listening to fellow participants at the learning exchange in South Africa

Faith listening to fellow participants at the learning exchange in South Africa

It was from these experiences, and from brainstorming with fellow participants, that Faith gained new perspectives on how she could improve her own efforts in Kenya. A year later, KITUO has leveraged support from two other NGOs and a church to acquire free office space, transportation, and supplies for a justice center in Nairobi. The justice centers are now working with many partners to increase their impact, and recently KITUO developed public kiosks to train women on their labor rights and other skills. The organization also hired staff skilled in blogging and social media, and developed new media, such as a video on eviction, to reach more people with information on their rights. To increase the visibility of their work among donors and influencers they built a new website. Their efforts seem to have succeeded. Recently, the Chief Justice visited a center to advocate for the importance of alternative justice systems and paralegals.

Thinking back to her experiences during the learning exchange, one of the things Faith remembers most was how the paralegals testified that “the commitment to deliver justice and the desire to bring happiness to a client’s face is what drives the volunteer paralegals to report to their offices every day.” For Faith, this was the value of the learning exchange experience: it was not just an exchange of ideas, it was also an exchange of passions. In addition to the new tools and processes, Faith wants to bring this passion to her team. With that, Faith believes that KITUO can help change the world – just like Nelson Mandela said.

Faith (3rd from left) and her fellow learning exchange participants at Mandela House.

Faith (3rd from left) and her fellow learning exchange participants at Mandela House.


October 15, 2016 | McKinley Charles

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