Articles, Blog

Namati | Vivek Maru | Skoll Award 2016


Law is supposed to be a sacred thread, something that ties us all together
and protects each one of us, but for billions of people around the world
that’s not the case. Injustice is the norm
and the law is out of reach. We champion grassroots
legal advocates. Sometimes, we call them barefoot lawyers
or community paralegals, who can take the power of law
out of books and courtrooms and put it in
the hands of people. The advocates are trained in
law, and policy, and skills, like mediation, negotiation,
organizing, advocacy. Namati has focused on four kinds
of issues across multiple countries. Farmers in Myanmar have had
their land stolen from them for over 50 years by the military, by crony companies,
and by the government itself. The confiscated lands were from there to there. Today, we’re working with
grassroots groups in eight different states, to deploy 90 community paralegals who together have supported
over 12,000 farmers, to protect their land rights. We will have to prepare an affidavit, in order to present it in court
as evidence that it is not their land. Using that evidence, we are going to
talk to the district officer. The paralegals explain land law
in simple terms and they help farmers to secure rights
over land they do have, and recover land
that has been taken. In Mozambique, the government has adopted
very progressive healthcare policies, but most Mozambicans have
never heard of those policies. Are you getting this medicine? I am asking you to open your eyes, because our rights are being violated
and we’re not paying attention. Grassroots advocates help people to
understand health policy and to take action
when the system fails. There was a woman,
named Angelina, and Angelina had a 17-month-old baby
who had tested positive for HIV, but they had been sent home. I didn’t think it was right, because the child
wasn’t even eating. It scared me to see just
how sick my child was. She heard one of our
grassroots advocates explain a protocol that
government has adopted, which says that
any child under five years old should immediately begin HIV treatment,
if they test positive. So they went back to the head nurse
and explained the policy, showed her the official documents
and started treatment. I get so saddened when I think of this, because if God had not
brought this sister to help me, I would no longer have this child. Namati and its partners have worked
with over 40,000 clients. By tracking data on every single case, they can advocate for improvements to
laws that affect millions of people. But Namati is not doing this alone. They convene a network of
over 500 groups from 150 countries, building a global movement
dedicated to legal empowerment. Ultimately, this is about a
deeper version of democracy, where we the people, we don’t just
cast ballots once every few years. We take part daily in the rules and
institutions that hold us together.

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