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How do empowered citizens make a more accountable state?

Institute of Development Studies

Project type Research 

Country Kenya  South Africa 

Support £43,200

In partnership with Bar Hostess Empowerment and Support Programme, Kenya; Hakijamii, Kenya
“Legal empowerment can change people’s perception of the law and the state, from a tool to maintain skewed power imbalances to a tool to protect and advance the rights of minorities.”
Start date
June 2016
End date
March 2017
Period: 9 months


There are many overlaps between legal empowerment and social accountability: but both concepts are rooted in the notion that empowering marginalised communities can rebalance power. Organisations in Africa and elsewhere have already blended these strategies to seek accountability in the delivery of health services. But, more evidence is needed to ‘unpack’ the relationship between legal empowerment and social accountability, and support projects working to improve them.



Examining two legal empowerment initiatives in Southern Africa, this project will analyse how marginalised individuals and groups use legal provisions to improve access to health services and address rights violations. It will look at the added value of legal empowerment initiatives and their use of a legal discourse to obtain social change, contributing to explorations of the relationship between the law and development.


The lead researcher is Francesa Feruglio, at the Institute of Development Studies. IDS is a leading global institution for development research, teaching and learning, and impact and communications, and is based at the University of Sussex, UK.