In 2003, Namati’s CEO, Vivek Maru, co-founded Timap for Justice, a community paralegal program in Sierra Leone. The country had just just come out of a brutal 11-year civil war.
At the time, there were fewer than 100 lawyers in the country and almost all of those were in the capital, Freetown.
A World Bank study found that Timap’s paralegals managed to squeeze justice out of a broken system: stopping a school master from beating children; negotiating child support payments from a derelict father; persuading the water authority to repair a well. In exceptional cases, such as when a mining company damaged six villages’ land and abandoned the region without paying compensation, a tiny corps of lawyers can resort to litigation and higher-level advocacy to obtain a remedy.
Timap for Justice has been recognized by International Crisis Group, Transparency International, President Jimmy Carter, the World Bank, and others as an innovative model for delivering justice services.
In 2011, we founded Namati to build a movement of grassroots legal advocates worldwide.
Neither Timap nor Namati invented community paralegals — paralegals helped people navigate apartheid in South Africa starting in the 1950s, and there are paralegal efforts in many countries.
But most existing programs work in isolation and at a small scale. They rarely document their own impact, and they rarely have access to lessons learned by their peers across borders.
We started Namati to grow a robust, evidence-based, global field around community paralegals, legal empowerment, and primary justice services, similar to the robust field of primary healthcare. Namati is the first and only international group dedicated to this approach.
Namati is a Sanskrit word that means “to shape something into a curve”. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”. We call ourselves Namati because we’re dedicated to bending that curve.
Namati’s major supporters to date are the Open Society Foundation, UK DFID, AusAID, and UNDP. Namati’s advisory board includes Amartya Sen, Madeleine Albright, Fazle Abed, Mo Ibrahim and George Soros.