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Do More Empowered Citizens Make More Accountable States? Power and Legitimacy in Legal Empowerment Initiatives in Kenya and South Africa

By: Francesca Feruglio, Institute of Development Studies

Marginalised groups and individuals often face difficulties in accessing essential services such as housing, health care and water – despite the existence of national and international laws that require states to guarantee equal access to basic services. Civil society organisations and lawyers in several countries are using legal frameworks to hold states accountable for their legal obligations and ensure that citizens are able to claim services to which they are entitled.

This research report examines four case studies of organisations that use legal based approaches to improve marginalised groups’ access to services, and how the state responds to them. These cases are Hakijamii, which helps people realise their socio-economic rights in Kenya; the Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme in Nairobi, which supports sex workers in obtaining access to health care and challenging criminal charges; Ndifuna Ukwazi which tackles spatial inequality and land and housing segregation in Cape Town; and the Witzenberg Rural Development Center which supports and advises farm workers in one of the largest fruit growing regions in southern Africa.

The findings point at the interrelation between empowerment and accountability, and how legal frameworks are used to achieve both ends, leading to more equal and inclusive access to services.