Understanding Society

Tilburg University is convinced that it can contribute to solving social issues by developing and transferring knowledge and bringing together people from various disciplines and organizations.

Peter Smits on Microjustice Kenya:

"Impressive and inspiring"

At the end of last year, Peter Smits (lawyer at ING and alumnus TiU) conducted a week long campaign at ING as spokesperson for Microjustice Kenya, a project that gives those in the most dire straits of poverty access to justice. His ING colleagues ensured that the project, carried out by the Tilburg Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Civil Law and Conflict Resolution Systems (TISCO), was included in ING's list of top five good causes. In gaining this status, he secured 50,000 euros for Microjustice Kenya. Smits travelled to Kenya in March 2012, along with TISCO researchers Jin Ho Verdonschot and Robert Porter, in order to see with his own eyes exactly how the project was going.

Clearly the best approach

'In the space of just one morning, a visit to a court in Nairobi brought home to me the real need for implementing the Microjustice approach (which aims at encouraging legal self-sufficiency amongst the poor). The formal justice procedures are long and complex. What's more, it has also proven difficult to eradicate corruption. I was particularly impressed by the genuine enthusiasm and motivation shown by the local lawyers and paralegals.'

Smit outlines the progress that has been made within the project so far:

  • The first results of a questionnaire have been analyzed together with the lawyers from Kituo Cha Sheria, the Center for Legal Empowerment in Nairobi. This will serve as a basis for the legal 'toolkit' devised to help tackle the most frequently experienced problems among the poor, such as family law, eviction/property and unfair dismissal.
  • The process of training around 20 inhabitants of the Kibera slum to become paralegals is in full swing. A legislative proposal to recognize paralegal status in the Kenyan Legal Aid Bill has also been set in motion by Kituo Cha Sheria.
  • A 'legal office' has been set up in the Paralegal Community Justice Center in Kibera, which serves as a first port of call for legal aid for the poverty-stricken inhabitants of the slum. In serious cases the paralegals will seek the advice of the 'Volunteer Attorneys' or VAs, who specialize in social justice.
  • An advanced IT service provider, Nailab, supplies the required computer and internet support, which is necessary in order to make the legal toolkit and standard solutions both accessible and efficient.