5th Legal Empowerment Leadership Course (Budapest, 1-7 December 2019)

Dear friends,

The 5th Legal Empowerment Leadership Course took place in Budapest, on the first week of December, and gathered 55 participants from almost 30 countries around the world.

We want to share some takeaways and resources from the course with those of you that were not able to attend. Please feel free to comment below, share your thoughts or ask any questions!

Here you will be able to have a look at the course agenda and this year’s participants: LELC2019 Participants’ Handbook (789.3 KB)

@leadership_course_2019_participants it would be great if you could reply below and share your experiences with the rest of network members!

Below you can find resources used during the course as well as summaries posted by your fellow network members!

Session I: Conceptual framework - Introduction to legal empowerment

Faculty: Vivek Maru (@vivekmaru) and Marlon Manuel (@marlonmanuel)

This introductory essentially explores the question: what do we mean by legal empowerment? It addresses basic concepts, elements, history, and philosophy, including the legal empowerment cycle, the role of community paralegals and some lessons learned during the years.

Suggested readings:

Here are some amazing graphic notes on the session by Yevgen Poltenko (@poltenko)

Session II: Legal empowerment, organizing and social movements

Faculty: Gicola Lane (@GicolaLane)

This session explores the combination of legal services and strategic litigation with community organizing, and how paralegals and legal empowerment practitioners constitute an essential part of social movements. With Gicola Lane we explored the work of participatory defense and discussed about the power of community organizing in our efforts to advance justice.

Presentation by Gicola Lane (@GicolaLane)

Materials of interest:

Here are some amazing graphic notes on the session by Yevgen Poltenko (@poltenko)

Case Study I: The paralegal movement in the Philippines

Faculty: Marlon Manuel (@marlonmanuel)

This case study shows how the movement of community-based paralegals have adapted and innovated over the decades, to bring about large scale change in the Philippines.

Suggested readings:

Here are some amazing graphic notes on the session by Yevgen Poltenko (@poltenko)

Session III: Community-driven data collection and analysis for advocacy

Faculty: Margaret Satterthwaite (@MegSatt) and Sukti Dhital (@suktidhital)

These Case Studies follow how women-led and indigenous peoples’ movement of grassroots advocates, lawyers, and activists have collected, visualized and analyzed data for advocacy.

Presentation by Sukti Dhital (@suktidhital)

Suggested Readings:

  • SMS for Justice: Women Demand Access to Vital Services in Delh i - To address gaps in the delivery of basic services related to women’s health, adequate housing, food and nutrition, and water and sanitation across slums in Delhi, Nazdeek and ICAAD have developed and implemented a project that combines legal education and community-reporting through technology.
  • Bringing justice close: an experiment in accessing justice with technology - Legal empowerment enables poor and marginalized communities to be partners in development and decision-making. New technological tools are one type of innovation that helps legal empowerment groups reach difficult spaces. Nazdeek—a grassroots rights organization focusing on access to justice in India—has been working with tea plantation workers in Assam and slum dwellers in Delhi since 2012, with the mission to address systemic issues through community led policy and legal advocacy. This article discusses how new technologies make it possible for women in India to speak out against systemic problems.
  • Wapichan Set up Ground-Breaking System to Defend Human Rights and Monitor Ancestral Lands - Amidst increasing concerns about threats to their forests, wetlands and way of life, the Wapichan People of Guyana (South America) have set up their own ground-breaking system to defend their human rights and monitor their ancestral lands against harmful development. Community information has been collected using a grassroots land use monitoring arrangement that involves community monitoring teams, the use of smartphone technology, drones, and community digital maps – all controlled and managed directly by the villages. Today, the Wapichan People are launching a locally owned and managed website to present their monitoring information on the internet.

Here are some amazing graphic notes on the session by Yevgen Poltenko (@poltenko)

Case Study II: Legal empowerment and land & environmental justice

Faculty: Vivek Maru (@vivekmaru)

This session explores legal empowerment as a methodology to support bottom-up approaches that are protecting the planet’s natural resources, lands, ecosystems and people’s in the face of the current environmental crisis.

Materials of interest:

  • The chapter, Legal Empowerment and the Land Rush: Three Struggles , from the book, The International Rule of Law Movement – A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward. The chapter describes, by way of stories from Mozambique, Sierra Leone and India, three key moments in the interaction between land-based communities and industrial firms: proactive rights protection, negotiation, and post-facto enforcement. It offers insights for how to scale up legal empowerment at each of those moments.
  • Film: Lifting a curse, directed and produced by Jerry Rothwell

Here are some amazing graphic notes on the session by Yevgen Poltenko (@poltenko)

Case Study III: Legal empowerment and gender equality

Faculty: Denise Dora (@deniseddora)

This session explores the systemic patterns of oppresion and exclusion against women and girls around the world, the role of the law in such practices, and how legal empowerment efforts can help fight the current issues of inequality, poverty and gender discrimination.

Materials of interest:

Here are some amazing graphic notes on the session by Yevgen Poltenko (@poltenko)

Session IV: Paralegal recognition, regulation and sustainability

Faculty: Zaza Namoradze (@zazanamoradze), Matthew Burnett (@mburnett), Nancy Sesay (@nancysesay), and Michael Otto (@michaelotto)

This session addresses discussions around the recognition and regulation of community-based paralegals by governments and the potential impacts on the sustainability and legitimacy of such efforts, as well as the potential risks associated with criminalization, and loss of independence and credibility. The session includes two country case studies: Sierra Leone and the United States.

Materials of interest:

Here are some amazing graphic notes on the session by Yevgen Poltenko (@poltenko)

Skill Sessions

Innovative Financing for Legal Empowerment by Matthew Burnett (@mburnett)

Popular Education by Marlon Manuel (@marlonmanuel) and Michael Otto (@michaelotto)

Learning from Program Data by Margaret Satterthwaite (@MegSatt) and Sukti Dhital (@suktidhital)

Actor Mapping and Advocacy by Gicola Lane (@GicolaLane) and Aimee Ongeso (@AimeeOngeso)

Community Surveying by Yevgen Poltenko (@poltenko)

Closing day

Presentations by the participants

Every afternoon, the course participants gathered in groups to discuss around their challenges and with a peer-to-peer methodology help each other build a work plan. On the last day, 6 of the participants -chosen by their respective groups- had time to present their work plans with the whole group.

This year the participants who presented their work plans were: Joseph Sahr Ansumana from Sierra Leone (@joeansu), Elizabeth Atemnkeng from Cameroon (@Lizzatemem), Marina Dias Werneck de Souza from Brazil (@MarinaDias), Martha Opilli from Kenya (@Marthaopilli), Taib Abdulrahman Basheeib from Kenya (@BasheeibTaib), and Nicky Spencer-Coker from Sierra Leone (@Nickycoker).

Here are some amazing graphic notes on the presentations by Yevgen Poltenko (@poltenko)

All in all, it was an intense and inspiring week, where we could reflect on the work we do, learn together, share experiences and strengthen each other in our legal empowerment efforts.

If you want to hear more about the course, you can check the following posts which here published by the participants during the course:


@Lulungw @Ferjep @AimeeOngeso @SampadaNayak


“It was cold outside but it was warm in there.” This course’s concept is a unique way of learning and a rear opportunity for face-to-face sharing experiences with peers from around the world, each and everyone of them experts and heroes in their own unique way. Thank you all for this unforgedable journey and the inspiration for the future work.


Thanks alot for this amazing sources! Although it will takes times to read and understand that, but I have got confidence to swallow those Hope this will be implemented in Indonesia and We can share our best practises from our country to you in the future about legal empowerment


It was truly inspiring to be in a room filled with brilliant minds and great hearts. I found that the combination of resource persons, topics and participants meshed perfectly and I cannot emphasize how amazed I was of how the team put everything together.

In this line of work, learning never seems to end. And I appreciate the opportunity to have met and learned from these wonderful people. They will be a constant reminder to keep fighting the good fight.


It is good to hear about your enthusiasm! Please keep me posted about your work in the Phillipines. Warm greetings from Canada.


Dear Marta,

Received with thanks.




Dear Marta and comrades, I just want to share my first sharing of new knowledge with my team last Friday. We were on our annual retreat and strategizing for 2020. Then, I talked about “Community Organizing” and “Legal + Empowerment” which did inspire my fellow paralegals. That was just the very first step and I am now planning to share my new knowledge with wider audience through Myanmar National Paralegal Network. I will use quiz questions presented by @vivekmaru about environmental justice. That quiz was really fun and we could mobilize member paralegals. Now I am translating that into Myanmar Language and would post them as one question every other days. In solidarity,


Well received with thanks.



Hi Yadana!

Great to hear that you have already used and shared what you have learned from the course only two weeks after the course had been completed!

I am eager to hear from other @leadership_course_2019_participants how they have used lessons learned from the course in their work. Please share updates.

All the best.



Hi @Yadana - that is excellent and inspiring to hear! As you share the quiz questions with the paralegals and others in your network, feel free to share them in the community discussions here too if you like… :slight_smile:

And yes, we would love to hear any reflections or early stage movement based on the course from others too!


Dear All,

We, team from Namati in Myanmar share and discuss about Legal empowerment cycle and popular education basic concept with our community partner,paralegal and female community leaders. Those female community leaders from Rakhine state are really active and very confident to speak out their voice and to protect their rights when they demand to Rakhine State Chief Minister last week to receive compensation for their land grab.They promise us they will be actively participate together with our community paralegals in our community legal empowerment trainings. LELC is really good for all of us to empower community more and more. Kindly see the photos with female community leaders discussing about their legal empowerment. We plan to use the legal empowerment concept and skills from LELC to apply in our community empowerment training across the Myanmar Country in 2020. Thanks to Vivek,Marlon,Michael ,Marta, CEU and our friends.



Thanks, @ayeayeaung! Women power!


Quiz on environmental justice is translated into Myanmar and shared within Myanmar National Paralegal Network. This is to build movement among members and learn the new justice issue as well. I was so excited to see 30 comments within a day. Vivek’s quiz has 10 questions and I am posting one question every other day. This is very helpful as the network becomes more engaged!


Empowering is not an easy job. It takes time and many available resources. My first move was to sensitize with my fellow team in Yangon. I shared my recent knowledge about leadership and was so fascinated with their response. Now I don’t feel like a lone nut anymore. With many more followers, I become accompanied and so positive about future initiatives. Picture : Sharing TED Talk about Leadership and a video clip of birds flying together in flocks.)


Hello Yadana, It is nice to read about your activity in Myanmar. What are the most important issues you are working on in your country. I don’t know a lot about it but would like to learn about the legal trends there which are related to the legal empowerment. Thank you very much for your time. Alexandar


Dear Alexandar, Braveheart is mainly working on citizenship issue in Myanmar. But, additionally, we are also promoting paralegalism because access to justice still remains a question unanswered yet. Along with recent openness, Myanmar has been approving one law after another. And enforcement is changed again and again. Therefore we need to inform and empower local communities about important changes all the time. For this, Braveheart is facilitating the Myanmar National Paralegal Network to spread the message to wider audience. Happy to continue our conversation if you have further questions. Wishes,


Hi @Yadana and @ayeayeaung, it is great to see you both using what you learnt during the course, sharing it with your fellow team members and with the community members that you work with! That’s the spirit!


Hi all! I wanted to share an update from my organization about a legal empowerment project.

My colleague recently completed a project that combines legal empowerment, popular education, and equity design to create a visual guide for disaster relief victims in the United States. Our team is really proud of this work because disaster legal aid in the US is extremely complex, so it took a lot of effort and collaboration to ensure that this guide could truly serve survivors during a tumultuous period in their lives. Maybe this project could inspire other practitioners to consider collaborations with the creative arts/design world as well!

You can check out the guide itself here: http://welcometocup.org/file_columns/0000/2043/figuring_out_fema.pdf

If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the press release here.

I’ll be presenting during a webinar about the legal empowerment aspect of the project on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at 1:00 pm ET. The title of the webinar is “Figuring Out FEMA: A Trauma-informed Resource for Disaster Survivors”. ** Register here!!

I also blogged about the process behind designing this tool. Check out my interview with the designer and my colleague here!

Some of my favorite images from the guide:

Hope to see you all on the webinar!


Hello all,

Just an update on what we are currently doing in our organisation as a result of the knowledge gained from the 2019 LELC .We are currently intensifying our sessions with the community paralegals and their peers in the community. We have sessions to discuss and refresh the paralegals on their understanding on who they are, what are their roles. On the other hand we have requested for constitutions and are planning to distribute to all of them and to some of their peers .with this we want them to know the law use it and shape it.we are focused on the following important sections in the constitution, The Bill of rights and the sections that criminalize the key populations in this first quarter of the year. Our theme is Knowledge is power.

In the first picture our Legal Officer responds to emerging issues in a community paralegal Education sessions and in the second picture a paralegal dicusses with her peers in the community -The Bill of Rights and Legal Empowerment-Self Representation.


Hi @katielam!

Thank you for sharing the guide with us and reflecting on the strong potential behind linking legal empowerment efforts with the creative arts/ design world, and how the latter can help us and the communities that we work with in portraying complex information in an easy, straightforward and compelling way!

Congratulations for this work which I am sure will be inspiring for other fellow Network members! :bulb: