Discussion: Citizenship (Week 5)

This post is part of 10 Weeks of Action : Demanding funding and protection for grassroots justice defenders by calling on our community to sign the #JusticeForAll petition. Each week, we will spotlight how access to justice is critical to the advancement of different thematic issues.

Around the world, 1.1 billion people lack legal identity documentation, such as birth certificates, ID cards, and passports that can help prove their nationality or entitlement to citizenship. Without proof of citizenship, these individuals cannot vote, access health care, or go to school. Some are even left stateless or at risk of becoming so.

Citizenship is a foundational human right but in many countries gaining access to identity documents that prove citizenship can be difficult or even impossible. The process is complicated by lack of information, confusing bureaucratic processes, poor implementation of the law, or sometimes even outright discrimination.

Discrimination and exclusion based on ethnicity, religion, language, and gender often lies at the heart of people’s statelessness.

In 25 countries around the world today, women are not allowed to pass their nationality to their children on an equal basis as men. In more than 50 countries, women are denied equal rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality. These discriminatory laws result in wide-ranging human rights violations. Read more.

Grassroots justice defenders are helping people to understand their rights, navigate tangled bureaucracies, and challenge discriminatory policies. All around the world they are helping citizens, refugees and stateless people secure identity documents and access essential services. Join our call to fund and protect grassroots justice defenders by signing the petition.

Discussion Questions:

  • What more can we do to ensure citizenship #justiceforall?
  • How are grassroots justice defenders and legal empowerment practitioners tackling the issue?

We look forward to hearing your thoughts!



I is good to hear about ‘citizenship’ Is a problem of many nations especially, my country. I suggested that this should be included in the primary to secondary schools education and communities as a subject of discussion every month, to raise great awareness about citizenship (nationalism) including civics. I am calling on all paralegals, stakeholders, lawyers, civil societies, journalists, politicians, and everyone to give chance to national and international laws to control us, instead of we controlling these laws.

All the best.


@Mohamed_Sankoh, thank you for your post. Incorporating citizenship into primary and secondary school education is a great idea! Students can learn about their citizenship rights, legal identity documentation, and the rights and responsibilities that come along with citizenship in the country (like civics).

In Kenya, paralegals at an organization called Nubian Rights Forum run a school outreach program on citizenship, as the topic isn’t yet part of the national curriculum. The paralegals conduct sessions with students about nationality rights and laws, then the students participate in an essay-writing competition and inter-school debates on citizenship topics. It has really helped the students gain knowledge in this issue area so that they are ready to obtain IDs at the age of 18, take advantage of full citizenship rights, and help to ensure others don’t face discrimination in accessing the same. @zena @zahra @makkahyusuf @mariamhussein @anitaopiyo can share more insights from this initiative!


At Nubian rights forum what we do in school outreaches/programs is that we identify schools within Kibra location where our organization is based, after that we write an introduction letters to the schools and introduce our organization and the projects that we have specifically citizenship.we then arrange to have a meeting with the school management and inform them about the school program and invite them to participate in the competition. After they have agreed, paralegals go to the schools for sessions with the students to prepare them for the competition.The essence of the school program is to educate and empower the young minds on citizenship laws and rights, nationality, statelessness and the importance of documentation. Like @lauragoodwin have said we have different categories, for primary schools we have composition writing and creative art while for the secondary schools we have essay writing, creative arts and debates. We award the winners by giving them trophies, certificates, plaques and vouchers.


What I like about this approach is that it has entrenched within it an ability to measure empowerment and the students understanding of the target topics after the sessions with the paralegals through the competitions; the debates, essays and creative arts, it also gives them an opportunity to share their own expression on citizenship and nationality.


This week the Justice for All campaign’s 10 Weeks of Action is focusing on citizenship.

What links do you see between access to justice and full citizenship rights?

How are grassroots justice defenders and legal empowerment practitioners tackling citizenship issues?

@lalitaY @mayelinabreu @lauraparker @maaliniramalo @zia @urdu @hemfujo @Amani @samba @falubbe @LieslHeila @SabinShrestha @hamza @yasahkym @Maryama


I appreciate the the efforts put into grassroots ‘bottom up’ approaches to citizenship rights and the access to justice-these two are, I think inextricably linked, can you really have one without at least mentioning the other?- and how this work can inform the kind of policy change needed for a wider catchment. Access to justice is an essential ingredient of the rule of law. People need to be able to access the courts and legal processes or the law cannot enforce people’s rights and responsibilities, full citizenship rights allow a person to be identified this documentation and recognition means that they will be able to access other rights. In as much as we discuss basic rights for all, there are some things that can only be achieved through recognised citizenship, fortunately or unfortunately, in a functioning state.