2016 Honoree: Namati



Primary Area of Impact: Social Justice, Poverty Alleviation
Geographic Areas Served: Sierra Leone, Uganda, Liberia, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, India, Indonesia
Year Founded: 2011
Website: www.namati.org


Namati envisions a world where the power of law resides in the hands of people. Underlying our work is a deep vision of democracy: in which the people do not only cast votes every few years, but take part daily in the rules and institutions that tie us together. We want a world in which laws and policies reside not only in books or courtrooms, but also on the land, in the home, and within the grasp of every person.

Social Challenge

Our world is profoundly unequal and billions of people live outside the protection of the law. For these people, the law is an abstraction, or a bad joke, or a threat, but not something they can use to exercise their basic rights. They are unfairly driven from their land, denied essential services, extorted by officials, excluded from society, and intimidated by violence.

Take three of the world’s greatest justice challenges. These are the three that Namati is focused on:

  1. Community rights to land and environment. Around the world, farmers, fisher people, and pastoralists are denied the power to manage what are often their greatest assets: their farmland, forests, pastures, rivers, lakes, and coasts. Meanwhile, there is an ever-increasing investment interest in exactly those resources. When the rights of those who live and depend on the land are insecure, we see conflict and inequitable, shortsighted decisions instead of sustainable development.
  2. The right to decent healthcare. In the last fifteen years, governments have significantly expanded their policy and financial commitments to provide basic healthcare to all people. But there are massive breakdowns at the point of delivery. When there is no running water in a health facility or nurses do not show up for work, patients have little recourse. They remain ill, and their trust in the system dwindles.
  3. Citizenship rights. Tens of millions of people have citizenship rights in theory but lack official proof of their nationality. Despite good law on the books, poor implementation – and sometimes outright discrimination against certain minority groups – are obstacles to securing legal identity documents like birth certificates, ID cards, and passports. Without identity documents, it is impossible for these people to participate in society. They cannot apply for formal sector employment, or open a bank account. They cannot access services like education or healthcare. And they cannot use the legal system to defend against discrimination or abuse.

At the root of each of these problems there are profound imbalances of power—between farmers and a mining company, say, or between members of a historically stateless community and the government where they live. There are also devastating gaps between de jure legal protections and lived experience. Many countries have laws recognizing customary land rights, for example, but those are of little use if people don’t have a map, or a deed, or institutions for making decisions about how the land is used. A policy guaranteeing essential medicines is meaningless if the medicines do not reach frontline health facilities, or if they are only dispensed in exchange for a bribe.


Grassroots legal advocates have empowered over 40,000 clients and generated 18,000 solutions to justice challenges, including:

  • 650+ resolutions to breakdowns in healthcare delivery in Mozambique
  • 30 remedies to violations of environmental law in India and Sierra Leone
  • the securement of 3,300+ legal identity documents (birth certificates, ID cards, passports) for members of historically excluded communities in Bangladesh and Kenya
  • the improvement of land tenure security for 38 communities in Liberia, Uganda, and Mozambique
  • 2520 cases affecting over 10,000 farmers and 60,000 acres of land were initiated by grassroots legal advocates in Myanmar, with 56% of cases resolved within one year.
  • Over 80 proposals for policy reform made by Namati have been adopted, positively affecting millions of people.
  • 2,800+ individuals and 550+ organizations from 150+ countries learn and collaborate via the  Global Legal Empowerment Network built by Namati.
  • 300+ network members from 63 countries successfully campaigned for justice targets to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Selected as an Ashoka Fellow, with the Board of Ashoka calling Namati “the best law-for-all program [they’ve] seen.”
  • Shortlisted for the 2016 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship
  • Recipient of the Humanization Award from the Mozambique Ministry of Health
  • Received a rare “A+” rating by DFID