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Yes, I Can: Subjective Legal Empowerment

By: Martin Gramatikov, Robert B. Porter

This paper explores critically the notion of legal empowerment and adds to the current efforts to conceptualize and measure legal empowerment. The authors posit that legal empowerment should be sought not in the process of providing legal solutions but in the subjective self-belief that a person possesses and can mobilize the necessary resources, competencies and energies to solve particular problem of legal nature. This model rejects the existence of an overall quantity of legal empowerment. People’s beliefs in their ability to solve legal problems differ by type of problem, distribution of power in important relationships, social support infrastructure, language and many other factors.

The authors propose a measurement framework in which the model of task-specific subjective legal empowerment is estimated through a probabilistic assessment of the perceived capabilities to sort out problems from the everyday life which normally could be resolved with legal means. Validity of the tool is assessed through application to convenience samples of beneficiaries of NGOs providing legal aid to vulnerable people in Azerbaijan, Mali, Rwanda, Egypt and Bangladesh. The results suggest that subjective legal empowerment is an observable and measurable psychological state. The major policy implications from the proposed model of subjective legal empowerment is that it could be used as measurable benchmark for assessing the impact of diverse legal interventions on the subjective legal empowerment of individuals and social groups. 

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Uploaded on: Mar 11, 2014
Last Updated: Dec 04, 2015
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