Photo courtesy of Namati
By Stan Getui

Pursuing equal, full citizenship rights for all Kenyans 

Around five million Kenyans, who are citizens by law, face discriminatory treatment when trying to acquire basic legal identity documents due to their ethnicity or religious affiliation. They are frequently subjected to arbitrary vetting processes, prolonged wait times, and other unjust obstacles when applying for ID cards, birth certificates, and passports. 

Without legal identification these citizens cannot go to school, secure a job, apply for a bank loan, vote, receive healthcare, or realise other basic rights and public services due to them as citizens. This injustice excludes millions of Kenyans from society, preventing them from participating in a democratic Kenya and joining in broader efforts to hold the government to account. 

In a world where 5.1 billion people lack meaningful access to justice, there is an urgent need for advocates who work at the grassroots to ensure that people can protect their rights, access essential services, and take part in the decisions that govern their lives.

Luminate is pleased to announce a grant of $300,000 over two years to support one of these advocates, Namati, in its continued efforts to build a connected, data-driven, vibrant legal empowerment movement capable of bringing justice everywhere.

Namati is a legal empowerment organisation dedicated to advancing justice by equipping people to know, use, and shape the laws that affect them. Together with its partners, they train and deploy paralegals to work with communities to tackle injustices related to healthcare, citizenship, land, and the environment. Rather than treating ‘clients’ as victims requiring expert service — “I will solve this problem for you” — community paralegals focus on legal empowerment: “We will solve this together and when we’re done you will be in a stronger position to tackle problems like these in the future.” They help turn law from an abstraction or a threat into a powerful tool that citizens can use to secure their rights. This transformation in the relationship between people and law is essential to overcoming authoritarianism, inequality, and injustice.

Founded in 2011 by Vivek Maru, Namati is currently working to bring about transformative change in six countries – Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Kenya, India, Myanmar, and the United States. Alongside its country-level work, Namati convenes the Global Legal Empowerment Network — over 2,000 groups and 7,000 individuals from every part of the world learning from one another, advocating together and joining forces to bring justice everywhere.

Namati has been working with partners in Kenya since 2012 to train and deploy paralegals who empower communities that have historically faced discrimination on the Constitution of Kenya, Kenya’s laws on nationality, and the application process for various identity documents. Since the inception of the programme, paralegals have assisted more than 11,000 Kenyans to apply for documentation through individual casework and mobile registration events and reached thousands more through civic education. 

Luminate’s funding will help Namati build on this progress and deliver on its ambitious five-year goal: empowered communities working together to end discrimination in the administration of identity documents nationwide. 

Realising this systemic change will require Namati’s partners in Nairobi, Northeastern Kenya, and the coast to work together. They will analyse their collective experience and paralegal case data to determine patterns of discrimination across the country, connect communities to recognise their common challenges, and bring together a diverse group of Kenyans – those who experience discrimination and those who have learned what their fellow Kenyans face – to push for systemic change. 

We are proud to support the execution of this vision and excited to see the impact Namati can have using community paralegals, advocacy, strategic litigation, and other legal frameworks as tools to effect change and create scalable impact.