2018 Citizenship Learning Exchange in Kenya

In October 2018, the Global Legal Empowerment Network and Namati Kenya through the citizenship program hosted a citizenship learning exchange in Nairobi, Kenya between the 7th - 19th. Despite the learning exchange being concluded a few months ago, we wanted to offer a summary of the program here in the forum.


The exchange, which drew much from the recently launched, “A Community-Based Practitioner’s Guide: Documenting Citizenship and Other Forms of Legal Identity,” brought together 19 legal empowerment practitioners from 13 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe to share knowledge and experiences around citizenship rights and legal empowerment. Participants explored comparative methods and strategies in a workshop setting; visited vulnerable and marginalized communities; and held in-depth discussions with local community paralegals towards improving their understanding and capacity to address cases. Some participants were already leading in their citizenship rights efforts and looking to scale, while others were looking to start a program using specific techniques from a legal empowerment approach focusing on knowing, using, and shaping the law. Site visits and dialogue exchanges allowed participants to leave with valuable information to incorporate in their future work.

During the two weeks, the participants interacted with each other, different communities, and other stakeholders such as government agencies, partner organizations, and civil society advocacy organizations that work on citizenship issues.

Here are some highlights from the two week learning exchange program:

Introductory workshop Day 1 and 2

Day one started with introductions to each other, the learning exchange program, and the Global Legal Empowerment Network, which is focused on bringing together participants to learn from each other directly.

All participants then presented their own programs through a panel discussion focussing on paralegal training and development that included participants sharing their approaches to citizenship rights and legal identity using community paralegals and legal empowerment. This panel discussion format saw participants who were strong in the given theme highlight why that area was strong in their work and some of the challenges they still face, which led to very interactive discussions.

The second panel focused on engaging communities through organizing and mobilization. Okoye Chukwuemeka Uzoma of the Norwegian Refugee Council shared how they engaged the chiefs and communities through approaches that the community could easily relate to such as music and broadcasting programs on the radio.

Some organizations like the Nubian Rights Forum were engaging women in their work, having realized that women were deeply affected with legal identity issues, because most of the times their children were the ones whose access to the documents barred.

Chukwemeka Uzoma of The Norweigian Refugee Council in Nigeria sharing their community organization and mobilization strategies

The second day started with presentations by the Kenyan hosts; Nubian Rights Forum, Haki Center and Haki Na Sheria Initiative sharing their individual case studies around their citizenship work with the paralegals.

Their presentations set the stage for a panel discussion on navigating administrative systems. It was introduced by the various practitioners that generated practical presentations and discussions. It resonated with the participants that a significant challenge was the tradeoff based on compromise in ability of the organizations to hold government accountable while engaging and collaborating with them towards service delivery for clients

Best practices shared to address this include:

  • Holding roundtable discussions ‘self-care’ that work in Nigeria and Ukraine
  • Empowering administrative officers through transparent communication and building their capacity to contribute to decisions.

The debate continued though, on the pros and cons of close collaboration with government

The next panel discussion was on collection and use of paralegal data led by @maaliniramalo @silas and @balkrishnamainali with each sharing practical examples of how their organizations collect data.

Key Notes

  • Building the capacity of paralegals towards understanding the use of data and why they are collecting it would inspire efficient collection and management
  • The panel further explored the importance of data citing its role in advocacy and policy change
  • Data remains very useful in measuring organizational achievements and paralegal growth through (Monitoring and Evaluation)

Community Site Visits

Day 3 saw the participants accompanying their Kenyan hosts to their program sites for the field visits. The participants were divided into three teams: The Garissa team under Haki Na Sheria Initiative, the Nairobi team with the Nubian Rights Forum, and the Mombasa team with Haki Center and Namati Citizenship program staff joined all three groups. Participants spent four to five days with the local Kenyan host organizations meeting staff, paralegals in the field, local government, partners, and community members to gain insight and perspective into the day-to-day work. Depending on the group, they observed community trainings or ID registration drives, visited local government offices, and met with clients, all the while discussing successful strategies and challenges with the paralegals themselves.

Learning exchange participants Isac from Uganda of Platform for Labor Action and Iryna of Right to Protection from Ukraine with Khadija a community paralegal based in Malindi during a mobile registration campaign

Haki Center paralegals Hemedi and Mwanatumu with learning exchange participants Lalita of ADRA from Thailand and Shaila from PUSKAPA in Indonesia on their way to visit the registrar and then a community forum in Kwale

Haki center paralegals Zuhura and Mwaka with learning exchange Mainali BalKrishna of CAP-CRON from Nepal during an outreach visit in Mombasa.

Learning exchange participants at a breakfast advocacy meeting on protection and funding for grassroots justice defenders held at Laico Regency in Nairobi by Kituo Cha Sheria

Learning exchange participants and Namati Kenya Citizenship staff during a site visit of Kituo Cha Sheria offices in Nairobi

Learning exchange participants and their hosts in an advocacy meeting by CONCISE at Kibra in Nairobi

Learning exchange members interacting with other network members in the first ever network meet and greet event in Nairobi

Upon the group’s return to Nairobi, there was a day of site visits and partner meetings in the capital. The day started early with a 7am breakfast meeting at the Laiko Regency Hotel in Nairobi’s Central business District. This event was hosted by Kituo Cha Sheria for the “10 Weeks of Action,” which was aimed at bringing together stakeholders in government and civil society in support of the Justice for All campaign. The learning exchange participants had the opportunity to interact with resourceful people working towards access to justice in Kenya, including embassy representatives and civil society who shared information about the context for the campaign both in cities and rural areas across Kenya.

The breakfast meeting was followed by a meeting at Kituo Cha Sheria’s office where participants saw a presentation about their programs and their legal empowerment strategies. There was an in depth question and answer session before we had lunch together.

This event gave way to an advocacy meeting by CONCISE (Coalition on Nationality, Citizenship and Statelessness Empowerment), convened by the Namati Citizenship program in Kenya, with coalition members sharing advocacy strategies in the citizenship, legal nationality, and statelessness space. CONCISE members took turns offering insight and context towards inspiring the participants to develop their advocacy strategies further with some participants offering the group their own experience in advocating with government.

That evening the Network held the first ever member meet and greet nearby the Nubian Rights Forum office.The event was hosted at Makina Jamia Masjid and brought together almost 50 network members from Kenya with some coming from Mombasa and Garissa.

It presented a unique opportunity for the members to interact with the Namati team but more importantly with other network members from Kenya and abroad. “It is so exciting to finally meet the faces behind the discussions and posts online” was a sentiment we heard more than once during the event. [PHOTO?]

Closing Workshop Day 1

After extensive field site visits, the learning exchange participants along with their hosts reconvened for the closing workshop. Day 1 of this workshop saw:

Feedback and sharing sessions based on the community site visits; these were led by the participants through presentations by team leaders with participants also reflecting on their own contexts. The highlights of these discussions included:

  • Fascination of the vetting process by the team based in Nairobi having been invited to meet the vetting elders
  • Paralegals motivation and commitment in that then translates to their handling of cases this was based on feedback from participants who had travelled to Garissa seeing how the paralegals were seemingly very passionate
  • The importance of tracking and measuring the level of community empowerment after interaction with a paralegal. This would go towards understanding effectiveness of the paralegal approach and improving on it

Closing Workshop Day 2

The next session of the day was on communications led by Namati director of communications McKinley Charles. She took the participants through impact centered communication and how to package their messaging depending on who the target was. She gave them tips including how to use both stories and data when reaching people and focus on sharing key information in effective formats e.g the story books like Childhood statelessness in South Africa shared by Liesl Muller of Lawyers for Human Rights. She then challenged and inspired the participants to invest in communications in their own organizations by developing respective strategies and tools including .The participants were quite excited by this session and it gave rise to members signing up to write stories

The final sessions of the day were group panel discussions on financial sustainability and policy advocacy. In the panel discussion on policy advocacy; representatives from four countries shared their advocacy approaches and strategies. This included

  • How the team in Malaysia worked closely with government
  • How the Kenyan team used a coalition on citizenship, nationality and statelessness (CONCISE) to lobby government
  • How in South Africa they took advantage of regional convenings to talk about statelessness.

The financial sustainability discussions touched on how organizations could secure funding and support for their work through best practices from participants e.g.

  • How Haki na Sheria was able to get support from the community for outreach events including providing seating and refreshments and in turn offering legal subsidized legal services.
  • How Lawyers for Human Rights would use regional convenings to champion for their work on statelessness taking advantage of already set up meetings and conferences like the Voluntary Nationa Review (VNR) process.

The discussion also focussed on other strategies like applying for global funding, crowdfunding campaigns, investing in social enterprises and lobbying for government funding. This session ended with the participants of the exchange challenged to sign the petition on the protection and financing of grassroots justice defenders by the Justice For All campaign through advocacy on realization of goal 16 of the SDGs

Finally on the last day, the participants took time to plan learning projects to share the knowledge and skills they learned during the learning exchange with other network members globally by developing and submitting their work plans. One group will be hosting a webinar to share learnings with the network, a few participants are developing case studies about their own work, and remaining participants are writing stories about their experience to be posted in blogs. The day and the exchange by extent ended with participants filling in evaluations of the 2018 citizenship learning exchange

Major takeaways over the Citizenship Learning Exchange

  • Discrimination in citizenship determination and documentation issuance was systemic across the programs despite different operating contexts. The participants all committed to sharing nationality laws of their countries towards understanding their different legal contexts and tailoring effective advocacy approaches.
  • Use of data remains very key towards addressing discrimination through legal empowerment.
  • There is a need for practitioners to develop an organizational communication strategy that will optimize their program’s efforts. This should include both online and offline strategies.
  • There is need to challenge the status quo by identify limits and roles for civil society in engaging and collaborating with government as far as service delivery to clients is concerned. Civil society may tend to carry out government responsibility as regards to service delivery instead of complimenting them. This close collaboration may affect oversight roles and their ability to check government

The 19 participants from 13 countries were

  1. @isaac_arinaitwe of Platform for Labour Action (Uganda)
  2. @syrus of Himiza Social Justice (Tanzania)
  3. @LieslHeila of Lawyers for Human Rights (South Africa)
  4. @maaliniramalo of Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (DHRRA)(Malaysia)
  5. @Yadana of Braveheart Foundation (Myanmar)
  6. @lalitaY of Adventist Development and Relief Agency (Thailand)
  7. @shaila of PUSKAPA - Center on Child Protection and Wellbeing (Indonesia)
  8. @urdu of Council of Minorities / Statelessness Network Asia Pacific (SNAP) (Bangladesh)
  9. @balkrishnamainali of Center to Assist and Protect Child Rights of Nepal (CAP-CRON) (Nepal)
  10. @scira of Right to Protection (Ukraine)
  11. @Uzoma of Norwegian Refugee Council (Nigeria)
  12. @janemaryruhundwa of DIGNITY Kwanza - Community Solutions (DK) (Tanzania)
  13. @natashaarnpriester of Open Society Justice Initiative (United States)
  14. @yasahkym of Nubian Rights Forum (Kenya)
  15. @zena of Nubian Rights Forum (Kenya)
  16. @Maryama of Haki na Sheria Initiative (Kenya)
  17. @kasida_abdul of Haki na Sheria Initiative (Kenya)
  18. @AndrewOchola of Haki Centre (Kenya)
  19. @amoory of Haki Centre (Kenya)

Hello Mohammed, where are you located in Kenya? Would like to pay you a visit and discuss more. (+254710279318)/ Thanks


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