This post is part of 10 Weeks of Action: Demanding funding and protection for grassroots justice defenders by calling on our the community to sign the #JusticeForAll petition. Each week, we will spotlight how access to justice is critical to the advancement of different thematic issues.
Over 4 billion people live outside the protection of the law. Over half of them are women.
Women’s access to justice is a critical pillar towards addressing the justice gap around the world towards our collective vision of achieving “Justice For All”. Because gender equality impacts over half of the population, interventions around issues facing women and girls have catalytic effects on sustainable development and peace around the world.
Despite progress on access to justice and legal empowerment over the last 10 years, women are disproportionately impacted by a lack of access to justice. Fortunately, there are positive examples of how organizations and interventions that specifically help and target women are changing trends on gender inequality.
This week, we will highlight case studies, share resources, and host community discussions on how funding and protecting grassroots justice defenders can help combat gender inequality around the world.
Women’s rights is a topic that covers a lot thematic and programmatic areas regarding access to justice, so much of this week’s thematic focus will focus around the issue of ending violence against women and girls, a critical barrier towards achieving gender equality and “Justice For All”.
Sign the Petition
Tell world leaders to fund and protect justice defenders.
We, the world’s justice defenders and citizens, call on world leaders to keep their promise, made at the United Nations, to ensure all people have equal access to justice. Only by funding and protecting grassroots justice defenders can we make justice, not injustice, the norm. The moment is now. It is time to tip the scales towards #JusticeForAll.
The number of signatures will be shared with governments during the UN General Assembly in September 2018.
More about the issue
According to the United Nations (UN), access to justice is an important entry point for tackling discrimination against women. Former UN Secretary General Bahn Ki Moon has said that “with sound legal and justice systems, women can flourish and contribute to the advancement of society, including by helping to improve those very same systems for future generations – daughters and sons alike.”
Women’s access to justice combats poverty and exclusion, contributes to the fight against impunity towards women, and protects from economic exploitation and abuse.
Grassroots justice approaches to gender equality such as legal empowerment are vital for a variety of reasons, ranging from ensuring community buy-in to the safety and security of the women themselves to empowerments through the legal empowerment process.
According to the Asia Development Bank, women and disadvantaged groups, especially in developing country contexts, are frequently the most oppressed and poorly educated. Legal empowerment is a tool that can help with poverty reduction, which, when targeted towards women and disadvantaged groups, can help lift these groups out of poverty, in turn having positive impacts on communities writ-large.
In Ecuador, a special fund called the Fund for Law and Justice, was set up with dedicated funding to poor women, children, indigenous populations, legal NGOs, and law faculties, in part to help combat domestic violence in the country. After the 5-year project cycle, because the project involved civil society in both legal and judicial reform processes, and included three legal aid clinics specifically dedicated to poor women, an evaluation found that the legal aid services improve clients’ lives substantially, especially for women. In fact, this project led to the a constitutional recodification allowing women to report complaints of domestic violence against close male relatives, including husbands and father, a notable step towards decreasing violence against women. Individual experiences improved as well, as women who participated in the project self-reported that the felt more empowered, had better knowledge of their and their children’s rights and the legal process, and felt improved self-esteem in the aftermath of domestic violence.
All governments made a commitment to achieve “justice for all” by 2030 in the SDGs. The day the SDGs were announced, many sectors around the world saw new bold funding commitments. Access to justice, and especially grassroots approaches and legal empowerment, did not see a penny.
Grassroots approaches to access to justice, and specifically, issues addressing gender equality such as ending violence against women, remain chronically underfunded, as many of these projects are funded through ministries such as social welfare or women’s and children’s affairs, often the most underfunded within governments budgets.
The moment is now. It’s time to #TipTheScales towards #JusticeForAll and fund and protect grassroots justice defenders.
- Over 4 billion people live outside the protection of the law. Over half of them are women.
- According to UN Women, 1 out of 3 women globally experience violence during their lifetime.
- In Moldova, approximately 63% of women have suffered from at least one form of violence from their partner, while 40% were physically abused.
- In India, 27% of women reported experiencing intimate partner violence within the past year.
- The vast majority of women across the globe have experienced violence on the streets of their cities with 89% of women in Brazil, 86% in Thailand and 79% in India reporting harassment and abuse (Action Aid, 2016).
- 18 out of 173 countries have specific legislation addressing sexual harassment in public places. (World Bank, 2016)
How justice defenders are tackling the issue
- In the Democratic Republic of Congo, justice defenders at Pilier aux Femmes Vulnérables Actives (PIFEVA) run legal clinics to care for victims of sexual violence and monitor, document and report on the human rights situation to combat sexual based violence in the wake of conflict. Read their Spark of Hope story here.
- Justice Defenders at My Choices Foundation, works to combat domestic violence in India, working closely with survivors, perpetrators, and the police to tackle the abuse epidemic. Read their Spark of Hope story here.
- In Moldova, the Women’s Law Center, an organization run by women for women provides pro bono legal and psychological support to women survivors of domestic and gender-based violence and advocate for better national laws on domestic violence. Read their Spark of Hope story here.
- Justice defenders at The Awakening, a women-led organization in Pakistan, provide legal aid and psycho-social counselling to survivors of domestic violence survivors and advocate with local community leaders to address the issue of honor killings in Pakistan. Read their Spark of Hope story here.
- In Africa, grassroots justice defenders in the form of community paralegals served as intermediaries between community members and customary judicial systems to provide support and referrals to women and girls facing land and property-related issues.
- My Choices Foundation Video
- The Awakening Spark of Hope story
- Women’s rights group resources Maya pulled together
- The Women’s Law Centre Spark of Hope story
- Pilier aux Femmes Vulnérables Actives Spark of hope story
- Pathfinders report calling for catalytic action to respect all human rights and promote gender equality
- This World Bank evaluation of legal service centers in Ecuador enforcing child support payments for poor women and reducing domestic violence
- This report on grassroots justice approaches to securing women’s land rights in Africa
- This report features on legal empowerment projects for women in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan.