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Do more empowered citizens make more accountable states? Power and legitimacy in legal empowerment initiatives in Kenya and South Africa

Date added: September 5, 2017

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Many marginalised groups face difficulties in accessing essential services, such as housing, health care and water – even though their rights to these services are enshrined in international and often in national laws.

This research report looks at four cases studies of organisations using a legal empowerment approach - two each from Kenya and South Africa - to examine the different strategies that they  use to improve citizens’ access to services.

Hakijamii works to help people realise their socioeconomic rights in Kenya; the Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme in Nairobi helps sex workers (and others) obtain access to healthcare and challenge criminal charges; Ndifuna Ukwazi, tackles spatial inequality and segregation around land and housing in Cape Town; and the Witzenberg Rural Development Center provides advice on human rights issues.

Drawing on these cases, the research considers how the organisations use legal discourse, frameworks and mechanisms to empower citizens, and how the state responds when groups and organisations engage with it. It reflects on the relationship between empowerment and accountability, concluding that the identity and legitimacy of intermediary organisations are key factors in shaping positive outcomes for accountable governance.

 

 

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