We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2019 Grassroots Justice Prize, the world’s only award that recognizes great deeds in legal empowerment.
Nearly 200 organizations applied for this global prize. An eminent panel of judges awarded three groups – Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (Bangladesh), City Life/Vida Urbana (United States), and NIRMAN (India) – with the main prize. Each winner received $10,000 in recognition of their efforts.
A public vote was held to determine the winner of another prize. Nearly 4,000 people took part in the vote. This Life Cambodia received the most votes and took home $1,000 and a seat at the 2019 Legal Empowerment Leadership Course.
While each organization addresses injustice in distinct ways, they all share a common thumbprint—they are builders, they are resistors. Their work is lit by creativity and persistence, with a commitment to helping communities weave justice into the fabric of their daily lives. They are pioneers of our movement.
Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST)
BLAST’s mission is to make legal systems accessible to poor and marginalized communities. Since its founding, BLAST has resolved over 20,000 applications for legal assistance through mediation, and its team of paralegals has conducted over 1,400 legal aid sessions in prisons and helped secure the release of over 3,000 prisoners. Learn more at www.blast.org.bd
City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU)
CLVU fights for racial, social, economic, and gender equality in Boston, USA. They focus on promoting tenant rights and preventing housing displacement through a combination of intensive individualized outreach, weekly bilingual mass meetings on tenant rights, coalition building, public policy advocacy, direct action, and casework. Their goal is to build working class power in Boston and beyond. Learn more at www.clvu.org
NIRMAN works with tribal, aboriginal, and forest-dwelling communities in India who face eviction and widespread displacement from their ancestral lands. Their efforts center on raising awareness of progressive legislation that protects land and forest rights, and on mobilizing communities to file and settle claims when their rights are violated. NIRMAN also supports communities to conserve, manage, and govern forest resources sustainably through local institutions. Learn more at www.nirmanodisha.org
This Life Cambodia
This Life Cambodia’s mission is to listen to, engage with, and advocate alongside children, families and communities facing complex social challenges in Cambodia, including domestic violence. They provide legal training and support to women, including monthly meetings attended by hundreds where advice and information are offered, training on violence and the law for local authorities including the police, and work with secondary school students to teach them about the law and gender equality at an early age. For more visit www.thislifecambodia.org
The award ceremony was held at a special event on July 15th at the High-Level Political Forum in New York, where governments have gathered to report on their progress towards achieving “equal access to justice for all” as promised in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Sierra Leone’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Argentina’s Vice Minister of Justice and Human Rights, and the Netherlands’ Deputy Director General for International Cooperation attended the ceremony. Two members of The Elders, Mary Robinson and Hina Jilani, announced each of the winners.
Sara Hossain, Executive Director of BLAST, called the Grassroots Justice Prize an acknowledgment of “the communities and organizations who continue to confront inequality, discrimination, and arbitrary exercises of power, by continuing to demand justice and accountability.”
Lisa Owens, Executive Director of City Life/Vida Urbana, underscored that “This award recognizes the efforts of community-based paralegals and community lawyers who work together to turn the tide on eviction and displacement.”
The Grassroots Justice Prize is not a competition to determine who is better or best. Rather, it’s an opportunity to recognize the good work our movement is engaged in, and the organizations who make our world more just every day. Let’s not only celebrate their efforts, let’s build upon them, to realize the promise of justice for all, once and for all, together.
A special conversation with the winners of the Grassroots Justice Prize is taking place at New York University School of Law on July 17. Find more information on attending the event or tuning into the livestream here.