OSF-SA supported three participants to attend the Legal Empowerment Course in Budapest, Hungary. The participants included two community-based paralegals from Community Advice Offices (CAOs), and the Research and Knowledge Management Officer at the National Alliance for the Development of Community Advice Offices (Nadcao). The South African group was accompanied by OSF-SA’s Programme Officer in the Justice, Equality and Rights programme, Mkhululi Mazula.
The course was a unique opportunity to take stock of collective knowledge on legal empowerment and to build upon it. Its overarching objective is to cultivate a cadre of leaders who are committed to legal empowerment and share a common understanding of the field.
This opportunity was timely for the South African participants to enhance their knowledge given the social justice challenges that confront communities. The course was designed to help participants explore practical solutions to concrete challenges that arise in their work.
The South African team has been equipped with tools in understanding legal empowerment and using a similar approach of understanding the law, using the law and shaping the law. Three sessions that stood out from the presentations of the week were:
- The paralegal movement in the Philippines: the movement of community-based paralegals and how they have adapted and used innovative strategies to advance the struggles of the landless.
- Institutionalising community based justice services: this session was relevant for South Africans in drawing strategies that could be replicated for the institutionalisation of advice offices and recognition.
- Using data to advance the work of advice offices: strategies for case management and how data can be used to inform programme design that is relevant.
In the afternoon discussions, participants shared challenges and explored practical solutions.
This South African group will have left the course with tools that will be shared with others in their field. Foremost of their takeaways from the experience is this: “Movements made of people directly impacted by injustice have always been the engine of social change.”