Today is the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Madiba was a beacon for social justice — his activism paved the way for some of the world’s earliest community paralegals, who emerged in the 1950s to assist black South Africans with navigating and resisting codes of apartheid.
I write to you from Johannesburg, with my hands dusted in soil. Yesterday with the Elders – a group of global leaders that Mandela founded in 2007 – we planted 100 trees in honor of Mandela’s legacy. Each tree represents an organization whose work advances the freedoms to which Mandela dedicated his life. Several of these organizations, known as Sparks of Hope, hail from our Global Legal Empowerment Network.
The legal empowerment community has made great strides since Mandela’s long walk to freedom, but our work has only just begun. This is why Namati and the Justice for All campaign have chosen today to launch 10 Weeks of Action, to highlight gaps around financing and protection for grassroots justice defenders while mobilizing our community to take national action.
The #JusticeForAll petition, to be submitted to the UN General Assembly this fall, demands that world leaders address the critical needs of justice defenders. Without doing so, they cannot fulfill their promise, enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure access to justice for all.
In each of the coming ten weeks, we will spotlight a different area where legal empowerment efforts are making inroads, such as gender-based-violence, land rights, forced migration, and environmental stewardship. Our 10 weeks of action will culminate in September, on the 10th anniversary of the report of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, which urged the world to raise legal awareness and access to paralegal services at the community level, and to support civil society organizations working on these issues.
Our goal is to have 100,000 people sign the #JusticeForAll petition. Help us to meet our target and let the world know that our movement is a force to be reckoned with.
Nelson Mandela showed us what can happen when law is transformed from a weapon of the powerful to a tool that everyone can understand, use, and shape. It’s no easy task, but if we work together, we can tip the scales towards justice for all.