New paralegal practitioner’s guide on citizenship rights


(Laura Goodwin) #1

How can paralegals and other community-based practitioners tackle the citizenship rights or documentation challenges faced by more than one billion people across the globe?

That’s the question “A Community-based Practitioner’s Guide: Documenting Citizenship and Other Forms of Legal Identity” is attempting to answer.

The guide, published this week by Namati and OSJI and developed in cooperation with UNHCR, draws from the experience of legal empowerment practitioners in more than 24 countries. The guide includes advice on determining whether a paralegal approach might be most appropriate in your context, tips on building the right paralegal team, suggested processes for developing case forms and other data collection tools, and a call for the community-based experience to inform national-level policy change efforts.

It’s designed for practitioners who may be considering adopting a legal empowerment approach to respond to citizenship rights challenges, or for those already working with paralegals who want to incorporate new lessons to enhance implementation.

Each chapter includes citizenship-related case studies to illustrate the best practices from organizations around the world, as well as links to related resources if you want to learn more on a particular topic.

You can download the PDF here:

Many members of the Global Legal Empowerment Network contributed their insights, experiences, and tools in the development of this guide and we encourage you to interact with your fellow network members about their work and the guide! Ask @lalitaY from ADRA Thailand how they built the capacity of chiefs to speed up the processing of nationality applications. Check out the sample DHRRA Malaysia counseling guide shared by @maaliniramalo. Find out about advocacy strategies that worked well for @Lore at Haki Centre in Kenya, or for @lieslheila at Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa.

Tell us the methods you have found effective in the process of developing your paralegal program on citizenship. Share what struck you about one of the case studies. Seek advice on a challenge you currently face in your work. Suggest an additional tool we can include as we build an online resource guide to accompany the publication.

We thank all the contributors (many of whom are mentioned below) for their help in developing this guide, and we look forward to further collaboration as we disseminate the guide and continue the conversation on using legal empowerment to promote citizenship and legal identity documentation around the globe.

@hegemo, @SabinShrestha, @lalitaY, @mayelinabreu, @mustafa_mahmoud, @sumaiya_islam, @laurabingham, @lauraparker, @tomdixon, @zia, @urdu, @amani, @amosmwachi, @andrewochola, @hemed, @amoory, @mwanatumu, @kasida_abdul, @nasteha, @samba, @falubbe, @lieslheila, @goce_kocevski, @fernando, @makkahyusuf, @derrcy, @jamaldinyahya, @jasminamikovic, @shaila, @mukhtar, @tomdixon


Legal Empowerment Workshop, 7th Asia Pro Bono Conference, Migrants Rights Workshop
(Tankiso Motipi) #4

Local chiefs provide a primary documents on proving that one is a citizen born/ residing in their area, however, they usually provide fraudulent information and it is really challenging the credibility of our National register. We have other supporting documents bit there are other vulnerable groups e.g OVCs who only have chiefs and families to prove their births. How do we tackle this?

(Bisimwa Kajangu) #6

les équipes des para-juristes, devons commencer par un processus de renforcement de capacités sur la notion de droits humains aux petites communautés affectées et dispersées partout au monde, en se basant sur le textes légaux de chaque pays afin de bien orienter les actions posées selon le contexte de chaque communauté. l’objectif c’est de donner une solution durable aux problèmes posés et cela ne sera possible que lorsque chaque communauté est informée sur le problème posé dans son milieux

(Laura Goodwin) #7

Thanks @Tankiso for this great question! Issuance of documentation and compiling a central registry can be challenging because the system relies on local actors like chiefs, local registrars, or sometimes health clinic staff to record and submit accurate information on births and other vital events. We have found in some places chiefs may not even be aware of their role or what the proper procedure is, and when combined with fraud the system can become very difficult for citizens to navigate. What leads chiefs in your area to provide fraudulent information?

In Kenya, the paralegals at Nubian Rights Forum have done a lot of work with chiefs and hospitals/clinics - ending some corrupt practices, highlighting where hospital records aren’t submitted to the Civil Registry, and even some training with both Civil Registry and health clinic staff. @zena @makkahyusuf @mariamhussein @yasahkym @Naima_Rajab may be able to share some insights from their work that relate to your question on fraudulent information and the role of chiefs. @AndrewOchola @Khadija_shelali @Amani @Mwanatumu from Haki Centre will have valuable contributions too, I’m sure! @lalitaY from ADRA Thailand has also been working with chiefs to help speed up the processing of nationality applications, too.

I also like the idea you shared, @BernardKajangu, about pursuing lasting solutions to the problems through ensuring each community is informed. What methods have you found effective in building the capacity of communities on human rights and legislation? How do you know if the increase in knowledge lasts over time?

In the practitioner’s guide, section 4: Building Key Relationships, section 7.4: Ethical Issues and section 9.9 Empowerment Initiatives might be worth checking out for those of you interested in these questions!

@mustafa_mahmoud @aishakhagai

(Tankiso Motipi) #8

Thank you so much!! Engaging paralegals seems really helpful from the human rights point of view.

(Esther Bett) #9

This will be very useful in our work in RODI-Kenya. Working with prisons, community and schools on on legal aid and restorative justice needs a lot of ideas and tools. This practitioner’s guide will go a long way in easing our community work and in the training of community paralegals. Thank you to all who worked so hard to put it together.

(Carmit Lubanov) #10

Thanks you both Laura for the Guidebook - I managed only brief review so far, but seems highly relevant tool for advocacy work. Since AEJI work with minority in Israel , I’d like to ask if there is plan to translate the guidebook into Arabic. Best Regards, Carmit - Association of Environmental Justice in Israel (AEJI)

(Laura Goodwin) #11

I’m glad you feel the guide will be relevant for your advocacy work, @CarmitL!

We do want to translate the guide into different languages to make the content accessible to as many legal empowerment practitioners as possible. Spanish is likely to be the first language, but Arabic and French could follow if there is demand! Thank you for letting us know an Arabic version would be useful! :slight_smile:

(Birendra Pokharel) #12

Thanks for the valuable reference.


(Paul Sixpence) #13

Dear Laura,

Greetings from Zimbabwe!

Many thanks for sharing this guide.

The guide contains useful knowledge, insights and strategies for community activists and para-legals alike in addressing identity and stateless challenges.

I must add, the guide is a useful tool in Zimbabwe since we still have people who are stateless as a result of administrative and bureaucratic hurdles at the office of the registrar of national births, identity cards and travel documents. Further, orphaned and vulnerable children without identity documents also struggle to access national identity documents to enable them to claim their citizenship rights.

Kind Regards,

Paul Sixpence Centre Stage Media Arts Foundation Zimbabwe

(Natamba Joanita) #14

Dear Goodwin,

Thank you for sharing this brilliant and well thought guide.



(Polycarp Okeyo) #15


Thanks for this information.

(Sana Das) #16

Thank you for sharing this.

Warm regards


(Vincent Otieno) #17

This a true milestone, it will surely help my project.

(Laura Nyirinkindi) #18

Thanks so much Laura

This looks like a wonderful resource. I very much look forward to reading it.

Best regards


(Prince Israel Orekha) #19

Dear Laura Goodwin,

thanks for sharing please, we are planing a training on community paralegal, we need comprehensive material to enable train community paralegal master trainers if possible volunteers that are willing to come Nigeria to support such training.

thanks as we look forward to hear from you.

(Ramesh Kumar) #20

Thanks Laura. It is indeed a groundbreaking one. I was fortunate to be at the launch.

Kind regards,


(Paul Brima Bangura) #21

Thank you very much, a useful document for my work on statelessness. Conscience International

(Nicodemus Soko Axwessoo Siayi) #22

Thank you for your communication and a Great package for use

(Gostin Kyubwa) #23

bonjour, comment trouver ce guide (document qui est écrit en français c’est Gostin de l’AJPDE RDC)?

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