On Tuesday April 14th, 2020, at 10am ET / 2pm GMT, we held a virtual round table discussion on how our legal empowerment work can address the justice challenges brought about or aggravated by the pandemic.
You can listen to a recording of the webinar here.
This webinar, moderated by Marlon Manuel (@marlonmanuel), Senior Advisor to the Global Legal Empowerment Network, featured a conversation with Namati’s CEO Vivek Maru (@vivekmaru) and key members of the Global Legal Empowerment Network.
They discussed questions such as:
- How does this health crisis adversely impact those working with grassroots communities?
- What injustices and rights violations are happening or may potentially happen as a result of government actions to address the crisis?
- How can legal empowerment groups continue their work, specifically to address these injustices and rights violations, during the pandemic?
Here we share some key takeaways:
Vivek Maru (@vivekmaru), Namati CEO
The pandemic exacerbates injustice and that means that the pandemic demands a great deal from those who are committed to the pursuit of justice - Vivek Maru
Whitney Adams (@WhitneyAdams), expert on pandemic preparedness and response, shared some key information about Covid-19, as well as what we can expect in the coming months, for example the implementation of strategies such as lockdown, shielding vulnerable populations, and case finding, contact tracing, safe and legal quarantine isolation.
- If you have any questions for Whitney, you can ask them in the space ASK A PANDEMIC EXPERT: Virtual Q&A with Whitney Adams
Daniel Sesay (@danielsesay), Senior Program Officer at Namati Sierra Leone, shared their experience and response during the Ebola outbreak such as the role of paralegals, and the use of community meetings, toll-free legal advice line, and structures like the facility management committees to pass on information to very remote areas in the country.
Madhurima Dhanuka (@mdhanuka), Programme Lead at the Prison Reforms Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) - India, shared their challenges, actions and concerns regarding the rights of prisoners, in overcrowded spaces and inadequate health care facilities. As main concerns she highlighted: ensuring that authorities and in particular the legal services authorities are actually making prisoners aware of the situation and informing them of the restrictions, virus and health related information, hygiene precautions; provisioning and safe transit of prisoners after release; the temporary nature of the releases and how prisoners are expected to come back to the same overcrowded spaces after 40 days to 2 months.
Felipe Mesel (@felipemesel), Lawyer from the Right to the City area at Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia (ACIJ) in Argentina, shared how the pandemic has unveiled in Argentina some hidden social problems such as the access to adequate housing for all, and how it is important to highlight housing as a right, and overcome the common view that everybody is affected in the same way, raising social pre-existing asymmetries.
The pandemic is not just portraying but is also increasing the discriminatory effects of urban inequalities and segregation - Felipe Mesel
Jasminka Frishchikj (@jasminkafriscik), Executive Director of the Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women (ESE) in the Republic of North Macedonia, shared about the direct impacts of this pandemic in the lives and rights of women and girls, and the actions taken by ESE to respond to women and girls’ needs. Jasminka highlighted the economic, labour, health, social impacts, as well as the increase in family violence and the paralyzation of the formal system of protection that are currently happening in this context.
From a gender equality perspective, we face a situation where everything that we have gained in the past is threatened - Jasminka Frishchikj
Fae Marie Bordey (@fmybordey), Litigation Coordinator at the Alternative Law Groups (ALG) in Philippines, touched on the concerns about how the pandemic could be used by some leaders to gain more powers and to tighten their grip. She also highlighted the importance of the role of CSOs, paralegals and activists in releasing information among the population, providing legal assistance, monitoring and documenting the violations and human rights during this period to shape legislation and hold authorities accountable.
Here we share some key elements for legal empowerment groups in this context:
- The role in translating, not just in language but culturally and locally, these basic messages on covid-19 prevention, and preventing the spread of misinformation.
- As these measures are implemented, feeding back the information from the community to the government regarding what is actually happening.
- Finding out which grassroots groups are doing healthwork. Eventually, that work on case detection, contact tracing, and safe and legal isolation of cases and quarantine of contacts will hopefully be happening. If you don’t know who is doing that, find out, because we will need every grassroots group to help with that.
- Learn a little bit more about what is legal during a quarantine, starting with WHO’s guidance and UN guidance on what legal safe quarantine looks like to protect human rights.
- We are going to need grassroots groups to help with the massive care and recovery effort that this is going to take.
- Keeping yourself safe and making sure we you are very well protected when you go back to your community.
By listening to this webinar recording, legal empowerment groups can learn from the sharing of past and current initiatives in addressing common challenges that we face in the midst of this global emergency.
Together, we will explore ways of supporting each other in this extraordinarily challenging period.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to an unprecedented crisis.
The situation urgently requires medical and humanitarian assistance as an immediate response. Some extraordinary interventions become necessary to slow down the spread of the virus. But our collective experience shows that, when governments take emergency action, there is always a serious risk that injustices will be committed against vulnerable and marginalized groups and communities, and discrimination and rights violations can become more entrenched as a result.
Legal empowerment is essential during this challenging time. Vulnerabilities and inequalities are magnified in the midst of the pandemic. The effects of both the fast spreading disease and governments’ containment measures disproportionately impact marginalized groups, such as workers, homeless persons and those living in informal settlements, minorities, and migrants, especially women within these vulnerable populations. The time is ripe for the legal empowerment community to convene and consider how to respond.